Atlético Madrid return to action on Sunday, hosting Primera División overachievers Levante at the Vicente Calderón.
When the clash gets underway (20:00 CET), los Colchoneros will be without star striker Radamel Falcao.
‘El Tigre’ sustained a hamstring injury in Colombia and will sit out this match in a bid to make it back in time for the season’s first Madrid Derby on the 26th.
In-form Adrián should be up to the task as he spearheads Atleti’s attack, while Jose Antonio Reyes and Eduardo Salvio, who could be in line for starts, would assume a share of the team’s goal scoring responsibilities as well.
While Atlético’s players were rewarded with a memorable trip to Cairo, where they got the chance to ride around on camels and visit one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, fans sulked around at their jobs and schools all week still bitter and sitting in the stew of the hot mess that was their team’s devastating loss to Getafe just before the international break.
Gregorio Manzano’s men failed to take advantage of being a man up on their opponents following Alberto Lopo’s dismissal, falling to their pornographer neighbours 3-2.
“In football you have to play with intensity every day and maybe in some games, for whatever reason, we have not gone in with the same intensity and when we try to react it is difficult [to recover],” vice-captain Luis Amaranto Perea was quoted as saying by ESPN Soccernet.
Perea continued: “The need to win every game always makes it crucial to engage. We cannot continue to lose points because our direct competitors are still pulling away from us.
“The tragedy is that almost always we are about to pick up [our form] and then we hit these bumps. There is always a requirement to win here. Beyond all that has happened there is a lot at stake at home and then everyone is aware that they have to give a little more of what they have given so far.”
It appears Reyes has been paroled from his jail sentence, as Manzano included him in the squad for this game. ‘La Perla’ was left off our last three match selections reportedly because he was suffering from the flu, but logic suggests his conduct in Bilbao a little over three weeks ago was at least partially to blame for his extended absence.
Antonio López will join Falcao in the stands, as the captain continues his recovery from minor knee surgery.
Diego Godín, Paulo Assuncao and Joel were left off the team through tactical decision.
Juan Ignacio Martínez’s men have been the early darlings of the domestic championship, but their fast start that saw them win seven matches in a row including big victories over Real Madrid and Villarreal has since hit a snag.
Levante dropped from first to fourth place following consecutive defeats to Osasuna and Valencia, but will not want to loosen their grip on the Champions League spot they currently hold.
The Valencian side will shoot for their first ever triumph at the Calderón. In their eight visits to Atlético’s stadium, Levante have suffered six losses and have secured draws on two occasions, reports Atlético’s official site.
Atleti meanwhile, will look to hand los Granotes their third loss on the trot ahead of their daunting trip to the Bernabéu next weekend.
Just four points clear of the relegation zone, a stumble against Levante will leave Manzano and his crew treading on quicksand before the Derby.
Questions ahead of the match:
- Would a loss to Levante coupled with a defeat to Real Madrid next weekend finally be the death knell for Manzano’s second stint with Atlético?
- Will Adrián and co. be able to pick apart Levante’s stout back line?
- Will we see a motivated version of Reyes, or the disoriented version of the winger?
- In the unlikely event that he should start, will Sílvio’s fragile groin hold up past the hour mark?
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Courtois, Asenjo
Defenders: Filipe Luis, Silvio, Domínguez, Perea, Miranda
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Tiago, Salvio, Reyes, Arda, Gabi, Koke, Juanfran, Diego
Forwards: Adrián, Pizzi
Levante match selection:
Goalkeepers: Munúa, Navas
Defenders: Nano, Juanfran, Venta, Ballesteros, Pedro López, Cabral
Midfielders: Farinós, Pallardó, Barkero, Iborra, Welington, Xavi Torres, Valdo, El Zhar
Forwards: Koné, Aranda , Rubén
Referee: Pedro Jesús Pérez Montero
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