It may have gone unnoticed by some in the midst of our worrisome recent form, but Atlético are currently in Egypt to play a celebratory friendly on Thursday against Cairo-based side Zamalek.
Kick-off is scheduled for 8:00 PM local time in the Cairo International Stadium, or 19:00 CET.
The Rojiblancos are set to rake in €300,000 for the trip, which comes during a crisis period for the club in which both players and management are under scrutiny.
Led by José Luis Caminero and Clemente Villaverde, Atleti touched down in the Egyptian capital yesterday, and have so far spent their time visiting attractions such as the Pyramids of Giza.
It was hardly Beatlemania, but the players did stop to take pictures and sign autographs for the locals, who club directors will probably hope have not been keeping track of our results of late.
Gregorio Manzano brought a squad of 17 along, with some fans suggesting that the game provides him a lifeline due to his important role in promotional activities.
Unavailable to the under fire manager are Radamel Falcao, Luis Amaranto Perea, Arda Turan, Sílvio, Thibaut Courtois, Diego Godín and Koke, who are away with their respective national teams.
Captain Antonio López stayed behind in Madrid after undergoing surgery on Tuesday. López will reportedly be sidelined for about three weeks.
Also excluded from the trip was Milinko Pantic’s Atleti B squad, who continue their quest for the play-offs this weekend.
However, one player who did travel is teenager Javier Manquillo, who plays for Atlético’s Juvenil A Team. The 17-year-old is a Spanish youth international, and will offer cover at right-back if needed.
José Antonio Reyes is in contention, with rumours of a return to boyhood club Sevilla hot in the Spanish media today. The game could give us more of an insight into his frosty relationship with Manzano.
Along with Diego, la Perla was one of the players chosen to appear in a press conference ahead of the game.
“We’ll play a serious game and try to win, it is not a friendly for us,” he said.
Álvaro Domínguez also spoke to the media upon arrival yesterday, and suggested that the clash could provide a welcome escape for the team.
“We are working to improve,” said the 22-year-old.
“This trip may help us to re-think, to be together, united.”
Our opponents are using the occasion to mark their 100 year anniversary and will look to inflict yet more misery on the red and whites in order to make the most of their celebrations.
Currently fifth in the Egyptian Premier League, the Ultras White Knights were in action as recently as Tuesday, beaten 2-1 at home by Ittihad El-Shorta.
When finished in Cairo, Atlético will return to Madrid and begin preparation for the next league fixture. High-flying Levante visit the Calderón after the break in a game that we simply must win.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Joel, Asenjo
Defenders: Filipe, Domínguez, Miranda, Pulido, Manquillo
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Tiago, Salvio, Reyes, Assunção, Gabi, Juanfran, Diego
Forwards: Adrián, Pizzi