Valencia vs Atletico Madrid
These are the two Spanish sides who, more than anyone in the modern era, have threatened to upset the La Liga establishment.
While neither have had prolonged success, there is no doubt that Valencia and, in particular, Atletico Madrid have had their moments in the limelight.
Both clubs came within a whisker of being crowned champions of Europe only to be unfortunate at the final hurdle – Atletico twice at the hands of their arch city rivals Real Madrid.
That was preceded by Valencia’s road to the 2000 and 2001 Champions League finals which ended in defeat, the second time on penalties to German giants Bayern Munich.
Yet they have also had some wonderful success along the way, Atletico defeating Real in the 2013 Copa del Rey final before clinching the league title at the Nou Camp a year later in the most exciting of fashion.
Considering their resources then, compared to the ‘big two’, a top four finish should be considered success but Los Che boss Albert Celades and his Atletico counterpart Diego Simeone won’t see it like that.
They want silverware and who can blame them.
Many eyes this weekend will be on the men with a record of finding the net in this fixture as Angel Correa and Rodrigo are set to cross paths.
Since August, the Argentine has become a player of major importance for Atletico as he has scored six goals and assisted another six so far this term. He was the one to score the goals that secured his team’s only victories in 2020 against Levante and Granada in the top flight, as well as Barcelona in the Supercopa.
Meanwhile, Rodrigo has netted two times but has contributed as many as 7assists in the league.
The duo are vital for their respective teams in their effort to achieve Champions League qualification for next season.
Both may still be in European competition this season but a league finish represents their best chance of competing at Europe’s top table next season.
Fourth versus seventh should certainly see La Liga highlights and, with Euro spots up for grabs and only two points separating the teams, the table further highlights the importance of this clash.
The Mestalla Stadium is set for another intriguing contest between the two sides I consider the ‘best of the rest’.
Earlier this season in Madrid the sides drew 1-1 when Diego Costa and Daniel Parejo traded goals.
Last season, Atletico won 3-2 at home when Correa scored a late winner. Alvaro Morata had opened the scoring before Kevin Gameiro equalised.
Into the second half, Antoine Griezmann restored the hosts lead but again Valencia hit back to level through Parejo.
In this corresponding fixture last term, on the opening day, the sides played out a 1-1 draw with Correa and Rodrigo on target.
If goals are your thing, then perhaps this is not the game for you. The previous four meetings have produced just five goals and resulted in three draws.
Atletico are unbeaten in the previous 10 meetings with Valencia and recorded six victories in the process.
Valencia last defeated them more than five years ago. It remains their only success against them in the last 13 clashes. Their last win over Los Rojiblancos came in October 2014 when goals from Andre Gomes, Nicolas Otamendi and an own goal from Miranda gave them a 3-1 win at Mestalla.
Atletico and Valencia have met 45 times in total with Madrid triumphing on 17 occasions and Valencia 13. Fifteen encounters have ended all square.
This is Valencia’s longest ever winless streak against Atletico.
Los Che have not beaten them in each of their last 10 outings in La Liga and the Copa del Rey.