Match preview: Atlético vs. Betis

Atlético aim for sixth consecutive home victory in final league match of 2011

Luiz Pereira takes on Betis players in Atleti's  Liga-winning 1976/77 campaign (

Luiz Pereira takes on Betis players in Atleti's
Liga-winning 1976/77 campaign (

Atlético welcome Real Betis to the Vicente Calderón on Sunday for Primera División action after failing to convince fans, despite a 3-1 victory, in midweek Europa League play against visitors Rennes.

The match, Atleti’s last league clash of 2011, will get underway at 12:00 CET.

Los Rojiblancos have quietly strung together an impressive five-game win streak at home, but massive failures in their travels around Spain have exhausted the patience of their supporters.

Atleti boss Gregorio Manzano, who has survived the itchy trigger fingers of Atlético’s directors against all odds, is perhaps a third of the way onto earning himself an extended stay in Madrid.

This past Monday, the club’s board reached the decision to re-evaluate ‘Goyo’ during the Christmas break, essentially granting the manager immunity for the final three games of the year.

Sporting director José Luis Caminero fooled no one when he came out in defense of the Jaén-born tactician earlier in the week, claiming Manzano will stay on board because he is a “valid manager for Atlético Madrid.”

The fact of the matter is, there simply are no viable candidates available at the moment to replace the 55-year-old.

In spite of the storm of criticism that surrounds him, the former Sevilla coach remains resolute.

“It’s not a question of justice or injustice, the criticism is accepted and respected,” he told the media in Saturday’s pre-game press conference.

“I feel strong. I’m perhaps stronger than ever. I don’t like criticism but it motivates me to show those people that they can trust in my work.”

He continued: “We have to focus on the opponent and in doing our job on the field. What’s important is that the fans go home happy, that’s the objective.”

Unfortunately for Manzano, regardless of the weekend’s outcome, it appears to be too late to sway the Colchonero faithful; especially considering very few were pleased with his appointment in the first place.

Puzzling is the manager’s decision to call up winger José Antonio Reyes this time around after leaving him off the match selection last week because of his supposed lack of commitment.

Citing Reyes’ negotiations with Galatasaray, which have since fallen through, Manzano justified not taking him to Barcelona. With reports suggesting the 28-year-old is on the verge of agreeing to a move back to Sevilla, Goyo included him in the squad versus the Verdiblancos. Go figure.

Midfielder Gabi is available again after serving a one-match ban on Thursday against Rennes.

Joel, Antonio López, Jorge Pulido, Pizzi, through tactical decision, and Sílvio, still recovering from injury, did not make the squad.

Pepe Mel’s men have had their own series of ups and downs, currently sitting in 13th place in the league standings with 16 points and just one point clear of the relegation zone.

Betis, like Atleti a week before, were shamed in midweek Copa del Rey play when they visited Segunda División outfit Córdoba. Fielding a line-up composed primarily of backups, they were shut out by their hosts 1-0.

They are, however, coming to Madrid on the back of a heroic, last-minute comeback victory over Spanish heavyweights Valencia in Sevilla last Saturday.

Betis striker Jorge Molina feels his squad should aim to capitalise on the tumult at the Calderón.

“Atlético are not having the best of times at the moment but we must try and focus more on ourselves,” he was quoted as saying by ESPN Soccernet.

“We will go there and try to get all three points.”

Talking points ahead of the match:

  • Has Sergio Asenjo won the goalkeeping job over the on-loan Belgian Thibaut Courtois? When asked about it on Saturday, Manzano refused to reveal his choice, only saying “there will be a great ‘keeper in goal”.
  • Will Reyes be granted some playing time despite being left off the match selection last week because of his supposed “lack of commitment”?
  • Will Mario and Gabi (returning from suspension in Europa League) man the midfield again, or will Assuncao and Koke – starters against Rennes – be given another opportunity?

Atletico match selection:
Goalkeepers: Courtois, Sergio Asenjo
Defenders: Godín, Filipe Luis, Domínguez, Perea, Miranda
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Tiago, Salvio, Reyes, Arda, Assunçao, Gabi, Koke, Juanfran, Diego
Forwards: Adrián, Falcao

Referee: José Luis González González

Head over to the AtléticoFans Prediction League to give us your prediction for Atlético vs. Betis!

  • falcao

    we must keep winning home……
    perea godin domingez felipe
    assuncao diego gabi(koke)
    adrian falcao turan

  • uyegs

    even though Reyes is a very skilled player, he’s basically not contributing to the team mentally or physically. Even without him I don’t think Atletico are doing too bad except on away games considering the fact that a lot of the team is composed of new players. I think Atletico can grab a good deal if they sell Reyes for a nice price and then grab a quality player over the winter transfer window either for the right wing or for defense.

    By the way, what are you Spanish Atletico fans’ view on Arda so far. I’m a Galatasaray fan and now an Atletico fan so I’m curious 🙂

  • Davide

    It has nothing to do with the topic but somebody on Sky Sports forum posted this line-up as a EPL all star team. I personally think this team can take down both Real and Barcelona.

    ……………..Pepe Reina……………..
    Van Persie…………………..Rooney..

  • Javi Lozoya

    “I feel strong. I’m perhaps stronger than ever. I don’t like criticism but it motivates me to show those people that they can trust in my work.”, blah blah blah, does Manzano actually thinks he can revert things around?, puff, his speeches are getting pretty tiredsome and boring, and the only way I see Atleti is gonna improve is with Manzano out of the club, but I guess if Reyes goes to Sevilla that means Manzano is gonna stay, that’s just great.

  • atletisrael

    The only way for Manzano to get any progress with our club is for him to change his way of management. Due to fixation on HIS tactics and lack of in-game creativity the team gets stuck again and again against teams our quality players should have stroll against.

    That being said, I think a new signing would not be the thing to get our already confused squad out of harms way. If possible we should find a way of getting one of our past successes like Maxi,Torres or Forlan. That would be a dream come true for me…

    Best of luck for our players against Betis, won’t be able to watch again (f**k those early games). Gabi and Assuncao next to Diego. Koke for first sub.

    Aupa Atleti!!!

  • JohnGreece

    SPEECHLESS….Atletico is just crashing down…

  • leika

    feel bad for the loss, but finally we’ll get rid of manzano, hopefully tough….

  • ratchet

    We actually lost…

  • atletisrael

    Goodbye Manzano. If I’ll continue my post will be long and frustrating, and we all frustrated enough. So, Goodbye…