With their winless run now standing at an alarming six matches, Atlético head north for a clash with unpredictable Athletic Bilbao in the San Mamés on Thursday.
Our visits to the Basque country last year proved to be highly successful, and at 22:00 CET tomorrow evening Gregorio Manzano and his team will be doing all they can to ensure that theme continues.
Sunday’s bitterly disappointing draw to Mallorca means that attaining the three points is now perhaps even more important than before, but with Atleti still yet to win or even score on their travels, it will be no simple task.
Manzano has named a strong squad for the trip. The big question mark over the last couple of days has been over the fitness of Radamel Falcao, but the Colombian successfully came through a Wednesday training session and is included among the 19.
The former Porto man was sidelined by a bout of Gastroenteritis earlier in the week, but it now seems that El Tigre is fit and ready for action against the lions.
Unsurprisingly it was Falcao who finally ended our goalscoring drought at the weekend, albeit from the penalty spot. He spoke during the team’s trip to the Coca-Cola plant in Fuenlabrada on Monday, and assured that the goals would soon start flowing.
“We know the goals will come,” he said.
“We cannot despair because otherwise we will not be ready for when that situation arises.
“We must stay calm and try to take advantage of opportunities.”
Diego was presented with the same question, and admitted that better preparation would be needed for the game against Athletic.
“In football, the result is everything,” the Brazilian said.
“We know we need to better prepare for the upcoming game and we can get the result.”
Another player in contention is Sílvio. The right-back has impressed since his summer move from Braga, but his apparent inability to play more than once a week has caused some concern. Whether he will start in Bilbao is yet to be seen.
Juanfran will miss the game through injury, whereas Joel, Perea, Pulido and Tiago are left out. Eduardo Salvio does travel after recovering from a knock, and captain Antonio López also returns.
Before confirming the squad, Manzano spoke about his his team’s chances in a press conference on Wednesday.
With our last three league encounters ending all-square, some fans have questioned the team’s desire to win matches, but the Jaén born manager stressed that this has never been the case.
“We have not played for a tie in any of our games, always for the three points,” he said.
“Winning was always our goal and ambition.”
He continued: “We can have a good season, we have assertiveness and confidence in what we do.”
The 55-year-old also defended his decision to rotate certain players, citing injuries and international matches as to why he has had to make so many changes.
Our opponents have serious injury problems of their own; just 16 first team players are currently available to manager Marcelo Bielsa. Star striker Fernando Llorente and mifielder Carlos Gurpegui limped out of Sunday’s draw at Valencia, with the latter facing a lengthly spell on the sidelines.
Llorente however is likely to play against Atlético, after training both yesterday and today without problems.
Ander Herrera could also start for the first time in six weeks. The young midfielder has featured as a substitute in the last two matches, but could now be ready for a more prominent role after recovering from a knee injury.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Courtois, Asenjo
Defenders:Godín, Antonio López, Filipe Luís, Sílvio, Álvaro Domínguez, Miranda
Midfielders:Mario Suárez, Salvio, Reyes, Arda, Assunçao, Gabi, Koke, Diego
Forwards:Adrián, Falcao, Pizzi
Athletic match selection:
Goalkeepers: Iraizoz, Raúl
Defenders: Iraola, Aurtenetxe, Amorebieta, San José, Ekiza, De Marcos
Midfielders: Javi Martínez, Gabilondo, Susaeta, Ander, David López, Iturraspe, Ruiz de Galarreta
Forwards: Llorente, Muniain, Toquero, Ibai
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