Atletico Madrid travel to Espanyol on Friday night in what will be their final competitive game of 2017. A win for Los Rojiblancos would secure second spot in the table, and could possibly close the gap at the top to four points.
Despite not qualifying for the Champions League, it has been a good season so far for Atletico. Alongside Barcelona, they boast the best defence in the league, with only seven goals conceded.
However, the main difference between themselves and the Catalan giants is goalscoring. Atletico have only scored 25 goals, while Barcelona have 41 at this stage. If Atletico are to seriously challenge for the title they will need to be ruthless in front of goal for the remainder of the campaign.
As for the home side, it has been a relatively poor start to the season. Currently occupying 16th spot in the league, the Blanquiazules are only five points away from the relegation zone. With that being said however, a win for Espanyol and pending on other results going their way, they could climb all the way to 13th with a win on Friday night.
In the 2010/11 season these two sides met at the Vicente Calderón Stadium. Atletico went into the game as favourites; the odds were heavily stacked against Espanyol, however it was the side from Catalonia who came out victorious in a pulsating match-up.
Despite the home side dominating in the early exchanges, it was the away side that took the lead. Luis Garcia, not the ex-Liverpool man that everyone will be thinking of, stepped up to smash home a penalty in the 22nd minute.
Espanyol thought they had done enough to go into the break with a lead, however in added time, ex-Chelsea man Tiago equalised to bring the scores level at the break.
The equalizer did not faze the away side and in the 54th minute, Spanish playmaker Joan Verdu put Espanyol ahead once again, much to the dismay of the home supporters.
However, their lead didn't last long and it was future Manchester City hero Sergio Aguero who struck to bring the score to 2-2 and at this point the game was anyone's for the taking.
Atletico pushed for a winner, and because of this they left spaces at the back to exploit and they conceded once again in the 78th minute. This time it was former Southampton man Daniel Osvaldo who hit the back of the net, and to the joy of the away side, the game finished 3-2.
Atletico finished the campaign in 7th, with Espanyol ending the season just one spot behind them in 8th.
Moreno vs Godin
Gerard Moreno has been by far one of Espanyol's top performers this season. The Spaniard has played in all 16 league games and has registered 7 goals. Still only 25-years old, Moreno has a long future ahead of him in the game and still has time to improve.
Diego Godin has been one of the best centre-halves in world football for the past five years or so. The Uruguay international has been vital to Diego Simeone in years gone by, and this season has been as solid as ever.
Going into the game it would seem that Godin would be the favorite to win this battle, however Moreno has been on good form in recent weeks and if the Spaniard begins well, it could be a long afternoon for Godin.
Lopez vs Carrasco
Javi Lopez is set to fill in for the suspended Victor Sanchez at right-back. The Spaniard has barely featured for Espanyol this season, with only two league appearances so far. It will be a tough test for the 31-year old on Friday night, with Atletico undoubtedly targeting him as a weakness.
Yannick Carrasco this season has been somewhat off the pace. With only three goals and three assists, the Belgian has been a shadow of his former self and he will be looking to put a poor start behind him against a struggling Espanyol side on Friday night.
This key battle will come down to who is defending more. If Carrasco is unable to attack his opponent due to his defensive responsibilities, then one of Atletico's main attacking outlets would be nullified. However, if Lopez is on the back foot, it could be a long night for Espanyol.
Spanish defender Victor Sanchez is suspended after picking up five yellow cards in the league this season. Also out due to suspension is centre-half David Lopez, after he also received his fifth yellow card.
No new injury concerns for Atletico and they can breath easy with no players heading into the game risking suspension.
Espanyol (4-4-2): Lopez - Lopez, Duarte, Hermoso, Martin - Piatti, Feugo, Darder, Jurado - Baptistao, Moreno.
Atletico Madrid (4-4-2): Oblak - Vrsaljko, Savic, Godin, Luis - Saul, Koke, Partey, Carrasco - Griezmann, Correa.
Given the league standings and the current form of both teams, it seems like a win for Atletico is on the cards. Scoring has been a big issue this season for the Madrid side, however expect them to bag a few against a struggling Espanyol side on Friday night.
Espanyol 0-3 Atletico Madrid