On the Día de las Peñas, an annual event celebrating Atlético’s close to 700 fan clubs spread throughout Spain and the world, los Rojiblancos take on Real Zaragoza at the Vicente Calderón.
The clash gets underway at 20:00 CET on Sunday.
While the match is being billed by the media as manager Gregorio Manzano’s “last chance” following a poor run of form, Garreth Nunn of our good friends Madrid Atléticos reported that an official at the club assured there have been no discussions within the front office regarding a possible sacking.
This, in spite of an abysmal run of seven games and a dismal record in the domestic competition.
In nine league matches, Atleti have only won twice and haven’t scored a single goal outside of their home grounds.
Los Rojiblancos were pounded 3-0 by Athletic Bilbao in mid-week Liga action after being unable to see off visitors Mallorca in Madrid last weekend.
Atlético vice-captain Gabi, who faces off against his former team of four years this weekend, holds himself and his team-mates accountable for the rough patch.
“We feel awful in the locker room,” he said in the pre-game press conference on Saturday.
“I think this slump has taken the team to a place we didn’t want to come to. No one is happy with this situation and the only ones responsible and the only ones who can turn this around is us.”
He continued: “This is a very important week for us and for the club that can define our future, of latching ourselves to the top or to the bottom.
“It’s a vital week for us and we have the opportunity to completely turn this situation around.”
Manzano selected all 24 first team players for this critical game, including Juanfran, who is still nursing a hamstring injury and training apart from the group.
The rest of the squad fully participated in Saturday morning’s practice session.
Zaragoza boss and former Atlético manager Javier Aguirre, whose squad come into this encounter on the back of consecutive losses, is confident his men can snatch points from this fixture.
“We will try to end the week, which has been a poor one with regard to our results, on a positive note for us,” he said.
“Hopefully we can win our first game away from home at the Calderón.”
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Courtois, Asenjo, Joel
Defenders: Perea, Godín, Filipe Luís, Antonio López, Miranda, Pulido, Sílvio, Domínguez
Midfielders: Juanfran, Assuncao, Salvio, Reyes, Arda, Tiago, Diego, Koke, Mario, Gabi
Forwards: Adrián, Pizzi, Falcao
Zaragoza match selection:
Goalkeepers: Leo Franco, Roberto
Defenders: Efraín Juárez, Paredes, Mateos, Lanzaro, Fernando Meira, Da Silva
Midfielders: Edu Oriol, Juan Carlos, Pablo Barrera, Lafita, Ruben Micael, Zuculini, Leo Ponzio
Forwards: Hélder Postiga, Luis García, Jorge Ortí
Referee: Javier Estrada Fernández
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