Atletico Madrid host Levante at the Wanda Metropolitano in a La Liga clash which could have big implications for both sides.
Though Atletico are 11 points adrift of league leaders Barcelona in second place, Diego Simeone’s side still have much to play for in the remainder of this campaign.
Finishing as runners up would represent an impressive achievement, particularly if they were to top city rivals Real Madrid, who currently sit four points behind them.
Here's all you need to know ahead of Sunday's fixture.
Atletico’s impressive league standing and status as favourites to claim the Europa League title somewhat flatters to deceive onlookers regarding their patchy recent form. Simeone’s side have won only two of their previous five matches in all competitions.
Whilst their 1-1 draw away at neighbours Real last weekend displayed impressive battling qualities after going 1-0 down, and their 2-1 aggregate success over Sporting CP in the Europa League demonstrated an ability to get results when demands are high, Atletico have not had it all their own way recently.
The 1-0 midweek defeat in Lisbon made the tie far from comfortable for Simeone’s team and showed that they can be at least partly outmanoeuvred in times when the stakes are high. A 1-0 win over Deportivo prior to that tie showed efficiency but a lack of conviction.
The 2-1 defeat away to Villarreal last month was further evidence that Atletico can certainly be rattled. Simeone will have to reassemble his troops and ensure they get the job done against Levante to prevent any complacency from seeping into the climax of their campaign.
Levante, meanwhile, have found form at a crucial period in their quest to secure top flight status. A run of four straight defeats for Paco Lopez’s side, which stretches to the start of last month, provided cause for great concern heading into the latter stages of the season.
However, an upturn in form during the last month has seen a brightening of survival prospects for the Valencia-based club.
Three wins and two draws in their previous five outings since their last defeat, away to Alaves, has given Levante renewed momentum in their reinvigorated push for La Liga safety.
Disciplinary issues will, however, come as a concern to Lopez, who has seen his side have a player dismissed three times in their last six matches.
In a generally electric atmosphere at the Wanda Metropolitano, and against a Diego Simeone side who are always up for the fight, Levante must ensure they maintain numerical parity on the pitch with a technically superior Atletico side if they are to take a positive result away from this game.
Diego Costa was forced off during Atletico’s 1-0 defeat to Sporting CP in midweek with a thigh injury, and with the Europa League semi final against Arsenal later this month undoubtedly a factor in Simeone’s team selection, it is unlikely he would risk aggravating an injury suffered by one of his star men at such a crucial point in the season.
Although that defeat didn’t prove costly in terms of the outcome of the tie, it was of further significance in medical terms as Lucas Hernandez was also substituted at half-time due to a facial injury.
Elsewhere, Filipe Luis will continue to miss out through a fractured fibula suffered last month, and Thomas Partey will serve a one match suspension due to yellow card accumulation.
Levante, meanwhile, have a lengthy injury list to contend with. Forward Alex Alegria remains out with a lengthy cruciate ligament injury, whilst Emmanuel Boateng, Antonio Luna, Raul Fernandez, Tono, Sasa Lukic, Cheick Doukoure, and Jason are all sidelined with their respective knocks.
Paco Lopez’s options are further restricted by the suspensions to Ruben Rochina and full back Coke, as both players were sent off during Levante’s 2-1 victory over Las Palmas last weekend.
Potential Atletico Madrid Lineup: Oblak; Juanfran, Gimenez, Godin, Vrsaljko; Correa, Gabi, Saul, Koke; Griezmann, Gameiro.
Potential Levante Lineup: Oier; Lopez, Cabaco, Suarez Pier, Postigo; Alvarez, Lerma, Campana, Morales; Roger, Pazzini.
Whilst Levante will take encouragement from their recently improved form and a five-match unbeaten streak heading into this game, it would take a powerful performance of great discipline to put a halt to Atletico’s expertly regimented team play and potentially explosive firepower in attack.
Levante have clawed their way towards surviving the drop, but Atletico should ultimately have too much quality for Paco Lopez’s side.
Prediction: Atletico Madrid 3-0 Levante