Match preview: Atlético vs. Athletic

Crucial clash for los Rojiblancos against European rivals

Falcao holds off Athletic defenders

Losing not an option for Atlético or Athletic

Defeat at Mallorca on Sunday has seen Atlético concede yet more ground in the race for the Champions League, with victory needed against Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday to keep the dream alive.

Los Leones are in a similar situation, having taken nothing from their last two in the league. Despite their European exploits, a loss in the Calderón could see them fall seven points adrift of the top four.

Kick-off in Madrid is set for 20:00 CET.

The Europa League has proven a welcome salvation for both Atlético and Athletic since the turn of the year, but realistically, neither club wants to be playing in the competition next season.

11 games remain in La Liga, and the race is hotting up for one of the chasing pack to join the continent’s elite. Málaga have moved into the driving seat in recent weeks following an improvement in form, but there is still plenty of time for the order to change.

Domestically, Diego Simeone started like a house on fire upon his new year appointment, but has since seen his team stumble to just one win from the last seven matches. Three times Atleti missed the chance to move into the ascendency, meaning we have to play catch-up for the remainder of the season.

Around half a dozen teams are in serious contention, several of whom still have to visit the Calderón before the summit. Málaga and Espanyol come later on, and tomorrow’s clash against Athletic comes at a crucial time as we enter the final stretch.

Our matchday squad has not been named just yet, although Diego, Tiago and Sílvio will definitely miss out because of injury.

Saúl looks likely to continue with the first team for the match, but we will not be able to call on the 17-year-old next week when he and Javi Manquillo join up with Spain Under-19s.

Another canterano, albeit a little older one, who may also feature is captain Antonio López. The veteran left-back has made a full recovery and is available for the first time since January.

Cholo spoke in a press conference ahead of this evening’s training session, taking the chance to praise the character of his team.

“The team have consistently shown their bravery and we need to continue like this in such a crucial stage of the season,” he said.

“I have great respect and admiration for [Marcelo] Bielsa, but this is a game I want to win at all costs.”

Diego Ribas was also interviewed by journalists on Tuesday morning, and assured fans that the wait for him to return would not be long.

“It is difficult to say when I’ll be back, I need to wait and see what the doctor says, but the feelings are good and I’m desperate to return,” he said. “I am close.”

The Brazilian went on to talk about the Athletic game, and remained upbeat on our chances of Champions League qualification.

“The Athletic game will be a difficult one against a direct rival, but we are strong at home and are going for the three points,” he stressed.

“We definitely have a chance to make the Champions League.”

Athletic, on the other hand, will be without talisman Fernando Llorente because of a thigh injury. The Spanish international limped off early against Manchester United last Thursday, and is still not fit enough for a return.

Also missing is suspended captain Andoni Iraola, although Gaizka Toquero, scorer of two goals in the Calderón last season, and defender Fernando Amorebieta return from their respective bans.

Manager Marcelo Bielsa spoke briefly about the game earlier in the week, and like his opposite number and compatriot, underlined the significance of getting the three points.

“The Atlético game is hugely important,” said the Argentine. “We are playing against a rival and hopefully we can achieve the result we need.

“If we can win tomorrow and then on Sunday against Sporting we will be back in the fight for the Champions League.”

El Loco also confirmed that Óscar de Marcos would fill in at right-back in place of Iraola. Squad lists can be found below.

Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Courtois, Asenjo
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Dominguez, Perea, Miranda
Midfielders: Mario, Salvio, Arda, Assuncao, Gabi, Mérida, Koke, Juanfran
Forwards: Adrián, Falcao, Pizzi

Athletic match selection:
Goalkeepers: Iraizoz, Raúl
Defenders: Amorebieta, Koikili, San José, Aurtenetxe, Ekiza
Midfielders: Javi Martínez, De Marcos, Gabilondo, Susaeta, Ander, David López, Iturraspe, Iñigo Pérez
Forwards: Toquero, Muniain, Ibai

Referee: Javier Estrada Fernández

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

  • Javi Lozoya

    Very complicated match, a win should be a must. Unfortunately for Bilbao and lucky for us that Llorente isn’t playing, although Toquero, Ander, and “Bart Simpson” Muniain are great players and are gonna keep difficult on us. But I believe in Cholo, in our squad and our team spirit that we’re going to defeat Bilbao. Aupa Atleti Siempre!.

  • Javi Lozoya

    Btw, I still don’t get why the hell we didn’t sign Ander, he is a hell of a great player, anyways.

  • Javi Lozoya

    Forgot to mention Simeone is facing one of his mentors; Marcelo Bielsa. It’s gonna be an apprentice vs master duel. Of course Cholo is gonna win.

  • Sinan

    This game is very important for us, if we lose against Bilbao, then we can forget champions league football. And i don’t want Europea League football again. This Atletico Madrid deserves the 4h spot behind Valencia.

  • ratchet

    lets kick their a$$es!

  • ratchet

    btw update on fabrice muamba: his condition has been downgraded from critical to serious, he has been talking ok and can move hisnarms and legs. I think he will pull through and make a full recovery. Hopefully he will return to football soon, he is a decent player.

  • palc

    If there’s a team that deserves CL football, then its Levante.

    I think we will win this match.

  • leika

    I was just wondering how much people here love/hate Athletic? And generally how is our fan releationship with their fans?

  • ali_

    leika: i really like them. their philosophy, their supporters, their players. they are almost my 2nd favourite team, too bad that atletico fills up all my heart. 🙂
    anyways as i know basque students founded atletico, so bilbao kinda our ‘mother’ club.

  • I don’t really like Athletic, no matter of our “connected” history. Their fans are bums, and I do not like their football. BUT I admire them in one sense; because of their squad remaining pure Basque, and for that, they’ve got a hell of a team!

  • palc

    Im not sure of this all Basque policy. It is admirable what they’ve achieved with only Basque players. But it is 2012 now. No need for this segregation/discrimination crap. But then again it’s their tradition and part of their history.

    As a team, I like them. How they play, their philosophy etc etc.

  • javi

    I personally respect At. Bilbao alot because of the basque only policy and because of what they have accomplished without any foreigners. In fact, they also have not descended into second division. I also like them because they are our sister team from when we were created, and I love their part of Spain, food and culture. So yeah, Bilbao is one of my favorite teams after Atleti of course.

  • Javi Lozoya

    Great start from Atleti. Attacking and pressing since minute 0. Superb star from Arda.

  • Javi Lozoya

    Great defending from Godin and Miranda.

  • Javi Lozoya

    Very entertaining match so far, I like it very much.

  • Javi where u getting coverage on tv but is there a SITE i can get i on?

  • Javi Lozoya

    I’m actually watching by streaming at school, remember the link I gave you?,, check it out, you should be able to see the match live.

  • DJ_ZA

    Athletic are my 2nd favourite in La Liga. I think their Basque only policy allows them to be more focused and is advantageous in so many ways. Truly a team to admire…. although it’s always a bit easier when it’s only a 2nd favourite…. we always see the flaws and are affected much more by the highs and lows of Atleti.

  • Javi Lozoya

    Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooool de Atletico de Madrid!!!, Lo hizo Radamel Falcaooooooooooooooooooooo!!!

  • ratchet


  • Javi Lozoya

    Simeone should give Falcao, Adrian, Juanfran, Gabi, or Felipe some rest for Zaragoza’s game on Sunday.

  • Javi Lozoya

    Perea leyenda del Atletico comes in!!!, Grande Luis Amanto Perea!!!, leyenda del Club Atletico de Madrid por siempre!!!

  • Javi Lozoya

    Great match from Turan, he was superb

  • Very good match we won 2-1 but javi martinez provided a scare in the end.
    Congratz Atleti i never doubted you
    Aupa Atleti!!!!

  • Javi Lozoya

    Zaragoza is defeating Valencia but they got 2 players sent off and 6 additional minutes, bullshit refereeing.

  • leika

    Good! Now we don’t need any ”suprises” against Zaragoza. Yeah some players could do with a rest but at least onne of Adrian or Falcao should play. Just in case if you know what I mean…

  • palc

    Man of the match: Luis Amaranto Perea.