Radamel Falcao’s last gasp equaliser at Betis on Sunday just about ensured Atlético still have an outside chance of making the top four, but victory is a must in the re-arranged week 20 fixture against Real Sociedad on Wednesday evening.
Kick-off in the Vicente Calderón is set for an early Madrid Bank Holiday time of 18:00 CET.
With Málaga travelling to the Camp Nou after our game, we can go into Saturday’s crunch clash just three points behind in the knowledge that a win will take us above them on virtue of the head-to-head ruling.
However, there is no more margin for error for Diego Simeone’s team, who will also have to hope that La Liga’s surprise package Levante take no more than five points from their remaining fixtures.
La Real journey to the Spanish capital having secured safety at the weekend, although under-fire manager Philippe Montanier will be looking for three points to help stake his claim for another year at the Anoeta.
The Rojiblancos could face some selection problems, and as the Europa League final looms ever closer, risks are unlikely to be taken with key players.
Simeone suggested in his press conference that neither Luis Perea or Juanfran will be fit to start at right-back, and that we could see a debut of a three-man defence in their absence; potentially a risk against the direct wing play of Xabi Prieto and Griezmann, and the constant threat of Carlos Vela.
After only managing an hour in Seville, playmaker Diego may also not be fit to play a full match, so Koke is likely to come into midfield after his goal in the 2-2 draw.
The youngster could alternatively replace Tiago, who is serving a one match suspension after accumulating 10 yellow cards.
Speaking to journalists this afternoon, Cholo said: “I hope to see a packed house tomorrow, the players deserve it. We need the fans’ positive energy.”
On the subject of the Champions League, he maintained that we would not give up hope of qualifying.
“Until the referee blows the whistle in the last game at Villarreal, we will continue fighting.”
Our opponents have had an indifferent season on their second year back in the top flight, but managed to turn their form around after a poor start. Still, they have struggled to find consistency, although they are now unbeaten in their last six.
Former Valenciennes boss Philippe Montanier took over from Martín Lasarte in the summer, and looks set to beat the total of 45 points achieved by his predecessor. The Frenchman had good words for Atleti in his press conference Tuesday, but insisted that his team are going for the win.
“A team that will play in the final of the Europa League is a team of a high level,” he said. “They have done well in the second half of the season, with good players like Falcao, Diego and Adrián.”
“We will do everything to get a good result away from home.”
Carlos Martínez and Vadim Demidov return to the visitors’ squad, although promising midfielder Rubén Pardo and former Sevilla left-back Alberto de la Bella did not make the trip.
Earlier in the season we ran out 4-0 winners in San Sebastián as Falcao hit a hat-trick, and a similar result tomorrow would stand us in great stead heading into our vital final three games next week. Simeone is expected to reveal his squad later on this evening.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Courtois, Asenjo
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Domínguez, Miranda, Juanfran, Manquillo
Midfielders: Mario, Salvio, Arda, Koke, Assunção, Gabi, Diego
Forwards: Adrián, Falcao and Pedro
Real Sociedad match selection:
Goalkeepers: Bravo, Ramírez
Defenders: Ansotegui, Carlos Martínez, Estrada, Demidov, Mikel González, Cadamuro
Midfielders: Xabi Prieto, Illarramendi, Elustondo, Zurutuza, Aranburu, Griezmann
Forwards: Vela, Agirretxe, Ifrán, Llorente
Referee: Ignacio Iglesias Villanueva