Match preview: Málaga vs. Atlético

The 'Cholo' era officially gets underway on Saturday at La Rosaleda

Filipe Luis in match against Málaga last season  (

Filipe Luis in match against Málaga last season

For their first challenge of 2012, Atlético Madrid travel south into Andalusia to take on seventh-place Málaga.

The match, which is set for a 22:00 CET start time on Saturday, will be freshly-appointed coach Diego Simeone’s debut at the helm of the club he appeared in over 150 games for during his highly decorated playing career.

Simeone’s predecessor, Gregorio Manzano, failed to get Atleti’s 2011/12 La Liga campaign off the ground and was sacked just before the holiday break.

With Manzano steering the ship, the squad was unable to secure a single victory away from the Vicente Calderón in league competition.

Progressively playing worse as the year came to close, the final straw came in the form of elimination from the Copa del Rey after twice losing to Segunda División B outfit Albacete.

Only one hand is needed to count off our wins in league play so far this season. Add another hand to reveal our current position in the Primera División standings.

Now smack yourself with your third hand. Yeah, you feel that. Does it sting? Yes? Well then, welcome back to Atleti.

Under the leadership of ‘El Cholo’, los Rojiblancos will aim to banish an altogether unremarkable 2011 from their memories.

One memory that was quickly erased over the holidays was that of star winger José Antonio Reyes, who was virtually given away to one of our major rivals on Thursday.

Simeone left Joel and Jorge Pulido off his first match selection through tactical decision, while Paulo Assuncao will serve a one-match ban (five yellows) on Saturday. Sílvio remains sidelined with a knee injury.

There’s no question who the underdogs are this weekend.

A triumph over well-funded Málaga would be a tall order for Simeone to fill, especially when comparing our putrid away record to los Boquerones’ impressive form at home this season.

But Málaga come into this game just a few days after blowing a 2-0 advantage over league-leaders Real Madrid in Copa del Rey action at the Bernabéu.

Los Blancos stormed back – scoring three unanswered goals – to secure the come-from-behind victory; though Manuel Pellegrini’s men will seek to capitalise on their two away goals when Madrid visit their stadium on Tuesday for the second leg of the domestic cup fixture.

Atlético may have a slight advantage if their opponents’ focus is elsewhere, and could also benefit from having rested while los Malagueños engaged in a fierce battle with Real.

Of his counterpart Simeone’s baptism by fire this weekend, Pellegrini told reporters at a press conference on Friday:

“He’s already coached several years with some very important achievements, and he’s very familiar with Atlético Madrid. [Simeone] is an asset to a team that was having some sporting problems and we’ll see if that is reflected on the pitch.”

The former Real Madrid boss continued: [Atlético] have a great squad and have made some significant investments, with some very explosive players in midfield and up front that didn’t have time to gel in the first part of the campaign,” he said.

“But they’re a team that are structured for very important things.”

Mr. Pellegrini must not be too familiar with the dysfunctional pair that sits atop our club’s organisational structure.

Talking points ahead of the match:

  • Will Simeone really leave Arda and Adrián out of the starting line-up and start Juanfran and Salvio instead of arguably two of our top performers of the season so far?
  • Will the squad respond quickly to Simeone’s leadership and play aggressively and with more intensity–the way Cholo has called for?
  • Will we see a more defensive version of Atleti as some fear because of Simeone’s coaching style?
  • Do we have the right personnel to get us back to our counter-attacking roots?

Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Asenjo, Courtois
Defenders: A.López, Domínguez, Filipe, Godín, Miranda, Perea
Midfielders: Arda, Diego, Gabi, Juanfran, Koke, Mario, Salvio, Tiago
Forwards: Adrián, Falcao, Pizzi

Málaga match selection:
Goalkeepers: Rubén, Willy Caballero
Defenders: Gámez, Weligton, Demichelis, Mathijsen, Monreal, Sergio Sánchez
Midfielders: Toulalan, Apoño, Santi Cazorla, Maresca, Duda, Buonanotte, Isco
Forwards: Van Nistelrooy, Seba, Rondón, Juanmi

Referee: José Antonio Teixeira Vitienes

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

  • Javi Lozoya

    I’m excited and at the same time sort of disappointed quite a bit, because with the departure of Reyes the board didn’t bring a replacement for him although the transfer window is not closed just yet, also, Mario is staying at the moment and so the board hasn’t also bring a DM which is the position than the team has struggled a lot in the season, anyways.

  • Javi Lozoya

    Silvio is out, Assuncao is out, not good, hopefully Tiago is in good shape now and Mario also is now fit and finally reach his level because honestly I had it with these two guys, Tiago had a very poor season and Mario too, Suarez can’t even tackle, I don’t even know why was he our DM even tough clearly he lacks the skills of a DM, he is a great passer but he has played very poorly as a DM.
    About the talking points ahead of the match, Simeone should’t left out Arda or Adrian out of the starting line up, in my opinion the two of them along with Falcao, Courtois and Dominguez have been the most consistent players of the team, Turan is an all terrain player, he appears on both sides of the field, he drops back to help out the midfield, he assists, he is an immovable player and Simeone should consider that, and Adrian, he is a 10, he scores and assists and he should be Falcao’s partner upfront, againts Madrid he showed what he is capable of, he is a great player, and perhaps Simeone may left them out of the starting lineup because Juanfran and Salvio are theoretically faster than Turan, not so much than Adrian, but he shouldn’t do it, Arda is a player with a lot of presence inside the pitch and shouldn’t be dropped from the starting 11.
    Second point; All the players should respond quickly to Simeone’s leadership and play aggressively, Cholo is a good motivator and knows how to really convince and motivate his player to accomplish great things.
    Third point, we shouldn’t fear for a defensive version of Atleti, if everything turns out great we’re gonna a very balanced team, solid in defense, an aggressive, and a midfield, lighting fast counterattacks, but most importantly, a team that is never gonna give up.
    Last point, Do we have the right personnel to get us back to our counter-attacking roots?, more or less, Salvio and Juanfran are fast players that should be able to counterattack with ease, the problem is; neither one of them are having a good season, but hopefully they have improved with the arrival of Cholo, also, Turan is not exactly an a speedster, he is the kind of player that tends to have the possesion of the ball, pause the game and creative plays rather than run down the flanks and make crosses and all of that.

  • Erwinito
  • falcao
  • falcao

    what do you think about palyers of the Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk

  • falcao

    for example:Rakitsky Yaroslav for DM,Willian for RW or LW also Douglas Costa,Yarmolenko Andriy from Dynamo Kyiv

  • rojiblanco93

    The brasilian players would be a bit problematic , because of our non-europian spots.. But Yaroslav is a player i would love to see at atletico !

  • falcao
  • rojiblanco93

    Does someone know why Arda Turan is not in the starting eleven ???

  • AtletiFanInPhilly

    I know Simeone is trying to create a new system, so he deserves a little slack…

    But I can’t help to think that:

    1. Gabi and Tiago are mediocre players,

    2. This system seems like it will underutilize Adrian, and

    3. There should be a spot for Turan who has, arguably, been the best player on the team this year.

  • ratchet

    would 0-0 be a bad score?

  • AtletiFanInPhilly

    Yes. 0-0 would be a bad score. A victory gives Atletico momentum and validates, at least until the next match, the switch to Simeone.

  • ratchet

    i think its been a dramatic improvement. Godins header blocked on the line. We’re getting there…

  • ratchet

    0-0. I really dont think thats a bad result. Things dont just change overnight, and this is a result against a top team. If this fixture was last year we would have lost under manzano. We got our 2nd point of the season away from home-against malaga-thats not too bad at all. The performance was strong, and we almost won it. More performances like this we will start climbing the table. Im actually happy after an away game for the first time this season. 🙂

  • AtletiFanInPhilly


    I just don’t understand the starting eleven. And I really don’t understand putting in Adrian in the 88th minute.