Atletico will have neighbours Getafe over for lunch at the Vicente Calderon on Sunday in one of a series of the season’s so-called ‘mini-derbies’.
The battle between the two Madrid-based sides, both with 39 points apiece in the league, gets underway at 12:00 CET.
Los Rojiblancos have relapsed into their former wildly inconsistent ways of late, with March being a particularly disappointing month for Diego Simeone’s men.
On Thursday, Atleti closed out their mediocre month with a last-gasp 2-1 victory over Hannover 96 in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final match-up against the Bundesliga outfit, sugarcoating an embarrassing 1-0 loss to Zaragoza last Sunday.
While their Europa League exploits have been nothing but fruitful – they are currently riding an incredible eight-game win streak in UEFA competition play – Atleti’s poor form away from home in the domestic competition has likely cost them a chance of taking part in next season’s edition of the Champions League.
A fresh month starts on April Fools’ Day, but the Rojiblanco faithful will be in no mood for practical jokes.
Atlético’s head honcho Simeone, for his part, continues to take La Liga seriously despite the fact that his men are stranded in no-man’s land and four points out of a Europa League berth spot.
“We know that by doing things well we can end up in an important place in the league table,” he said in Saturday’s press conference.
“I am always optimistic by nature. I remain focussed on working day-to-day to improve what we’re doing, which I believe is good.”
‘El Cholo’ continued: “I’ve never liked [making predictions],” he said.
“I know that we have matches ahead of us and whenever you put on a shirt like Atlético’s, there are no excuses of games, schedules, kick-off times or rest, there is only concentration, excitement and enthusiasm.
“The stadium is going to fill up tomorrow and we rely on the best we can do each match.”
Crucial to offering our best version is playmaker Diego’s presence in the fold. The Brazilian, who returned last weekend after a long injury layoff, could feature from the start of the encounter, which would bode well for our chances of taking the three points in dispute.
Midfielder Gabi and right back Juanfran return from suspension, while a fully recovered Tiago is finally back in the match selection.
The injured full back pair of Antonio Lopez and Sìlvio were left off Cholo’s 19-man squad, as was Pizzi through tactical decision.
Getafe are unbeaten in four, taking 10 out of the last 12 points up for grabs and are coming off a huge 3-1 home win over Valencia last weekend.
Luis Garcia, a former Atleti canterano and confessed Colchonero sympathiser, is confident his men can upset their hosts.
“I don’t know if the European game will affect them,” Garcia told AS.
“Simeone will have it in mind, but they are eight points from the Champions League places and if we beat them then it makes even qualifying for the Europa League difficult so I think they will treat it as a final.
“They have very good players and a team worthy of playing in the Champions League, but we are level on points. They are favourites, but they will find a Getafe team doing very well.”
Pedro Ríos and Míchel are unavailable for los Azulones through suspension.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Courtois, Sergio Asenjo
Defenders: Godín, Filipe Luis, Álvaro Domínguez, Perea, Miranda, Juanfran
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Tiago, Salvio, Arda Turan, Assunçao, Gabi, Fran Mérida, Koke, Diego
Forwards: Adrián, Falcao
Getafe match selection:
Goalkeepers: Codina, Moyá
Defenders: Cata Díaz, Mané, Torres, Alexis, Masilela, Valera, Arroyo
Midfielders: Lacen, Sarabia, Gavilán, Castro, Casquero, Rodríguez, Samuel
Forwards: Miku, Arizmendi, Güiza
Referee: José Luis Paradas Romero
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