Atlético will head south into Andalusia to face off against Granada in competitive action for the first time since the 2000/01 season – when the two sides met each other in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals – and the first time in league play since their 1975/76 campaign.
The match kicks off at 22:00 CET on Saturday.
In celebration of the Andalusian outfit’s promotion back to the Primera División, Atlético and Besiktas were invited for a ‘triangular’ tournament at Granada’s Estadio Nuevo Los Cármenes over the summer.
The hosts got the best of Atleti by beating us 1-0 in 45 minutes of football, and eventually won the tournament after defeating Besiktas in penalties.
Gregorio Manzano’s men arrive at this fixture on the back of a frustrating 0-0 draw against Sevilla a fortnight ago that left them in eighth place in the Liga standings, well short of where they want to be.
After taking a single point from games against Spanish heavyweights Valencia, Barcelona and Sevilla, los Colchoneros cannot afford any more setbacks.
“In these next four or five league games we have to get all the points,” Atlético vice-captain Alvaro Dominguez told reporters during a press conference on Thursday.
“This is the objective of the squad, to pick up every point and for this we have to start off winning in Granada.
“That’s all there is to it.”
The Rojiblanco youth system product emphasised the importance of being a strong visiting side.
“Almost every team is stronger at home than they are away,” he said.
“After two away defeats though, we have to start winning away if we want to finish in the top four.”
Granada, who only have one victory, currently sit 19th in the league table and have only managed to score two goals in six games.
Fabri Gonzalez’s men lost 1-0 to Valencia in the previous match week, but put up a strong fight in Mestalla after conceding an early goal to los Che.
Their lone triumph was a huge 1-0 shutout of Champions League contenders Villarreal at home.
“Granada are a good team and they are going to show it this season,” Domínguez said.
“Nobody is going to make it easy for us. We are going to have to fight whoever we face.”
Manzano will have to make do without injured internationals Arda Turan, Eduardo Salvio and Sílvio, and captain Antonio López, who also picked up a knock.
“We have to go there to win it no matter what, even with all the inconveniences we have,” coach Manzano said in his pre-game press conference.
“When football is played, it’s normal in some cases for there to be injuries.”
The manager continued: “They are accidents that occur in football and there’s no reason to think we have signed players that are injury prone.”
Arda and Salvio hurt themselves while playing with their respective national teams over the break, while Sílvio is still experiencing groin pain and will not travel.
López suffered a hamstring injury in training and will also stay back in Madrid.
Goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo got the call in favour of Joel this time around. The canterano was left off the match selection.
Sílvio’s groin issue has led to some experimentation by Manzano at Majadahonda, where winger Juanfran had a trial as a right back.
“We’ve done some testing with [Juanfran] during a game last week looking for solutions to a situation that isn’t difficult at all, but it could be that during the course of the season, if Sílvio continues to have those [groin] problems, it could be a solution,” said Manzano.
“With time we will analyse things from the point of view of what is best for the team.”
Granada captain Manolo Lucena, speaking to the Spanish EFE news agency on Thursday, warned that Atlético “have quality players that hold the ball well and explosive ones that can cause damage on the counter-attack.”
However, Lucena is confident his squad can come out victorious against us.
“I’m convinced though, that between the players and the fans, we will be able to get the three points on Saturday,” he said.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Courtois, Asenjo
Defenders: Godín, Filipe Luis, Álvaro Domínguez, Perea, Miranda, Pulido
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Tiago, Reyes, Assunçao, Gabi, Koke, Juanfran, Diego
Forwards: Adrián, Falcao, Pizzi
Referee: Javier Turienzo Álvarez
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