The next stop on Atlético’s schedule is La Romareda Stadium, where los Rojiblancos will square up against a last place Real Zaragoza side banking on a miraculous late season run to avoid a drop to Segunda, a demotion they have been staving off since their return to the Spanish top flight in the 2009/10 season.
The affair, which will see former Sevilla team-mates Diego Simeone and Manolo Jiménez’ sides go head-to-head, will get underway at 12:00 CET. It will be the first of three straight lunch-time league matches for Atlético.
While los Maños are trying to scratch and claw their way out of the relegation zone, Atleti are reaching up for a top four finish.
A mid-week victory over Athletic Bilbao helped the Colchonero faithful turn the page on the letdown in Mallorca from a weekend ago, and a successive triumph on Sunday could serve as a shot in the arm of our Champions League qualification hopes.
The big news coming into this match is the return of playmaker Diego, back in the match selection following a month-long injury layoff.
“He’s working well and making a great effort to arrive at the highest level,” Simeone said in Saturday’s press conference.
“We’ll see if he can play or not tomorrow.”
‘El Cholo’, aware of Zaragoza’s gutsy victory over Valencia at Mestalla on Wednesday despite playing with 10-men for the majority of the encounter, warned:
“Because of the results we see in La Liga, all matches are complicated. We must be attentive and play with determination.”
On crossing paths with Zaragoza coach Manolo Jímenez again, Simeone said: “I know him, he’s a man with faith and his team are brave. Their needs aren’t any less than ours.
“For them, their Champions League is to avoid relegation. I never consider [my needs] more important than others’. Both teams have their necessities and we will both fight with our weapons.”
Though our Brazilian wizard is back at Simeone’s disposal again, absent from the Rojiblanco armory for this clash will be regular starters Gabi and Juanfran, both out with one-match suspensions.
Also out again are the banged-up Tiago and Sílvio, while Saúl has been included in the Atlético travelling party after being left off the squad that defeated Bilbao on Wednesday.
Though included in the initial selection, captain Antonio López was a late scratch for this trip after sustaining an injury in training on Saturday.
With regard to Juanfran and the ‘Butcher of the Calderón’s unavailability’, Cholo said “it will serve as a break for them; we need the entire squad to be competitive and this will give us the opportunity to show off our best weapons.”
He continued: “There will be youngsters that don’t get to play many minutes that will have the chance to do so now and we hope they respond the same way they have in training.”
AS reports Atlético are currently at 1,499 away goals in club history.
With the reunion of “Los Beetles del Atleti” expected to take place on the Romareda pitch, we at AtléticoFans like our chances of picking up number 1,500 on Sunday and of Radamel Falcao finding the back of the net for the fifth straight match.
Manolo will have to make-do without a trio of suspended players.
Pablo Álvarez (sent-off in the 20th minute against Valencia), Franco Zuculini (also shown red at Mestalla), and Ángel Lafita are all banned for Zaragoza.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Courtois, Sergio Asenjo
Defenders: Godín, Filipe Luis, Álvaro Domínguez, Perea, Miranda
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Salvio, Arda Turan, Paulo Assunçao, Fran Mérida, Koke, Diego, Saúl
Forwards: Adrián, Falcao, Pizzi
Zaragoza match selection:
Goalkeepers: Roberto, Leo Franco
Defenders: Paredes, Lanzaro, Da Silva, Abraham, Obradović
Midfielders: Mateos, Edu Oriol, Juan Carlos, Dujmović, Ruben Micael, Pintér, Apoño
Forwards: Aranda, Hélder Postiga, Luis García, Barrera, Jorge Ortí
Referee: Alberto Undiano Mallenco
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