Though Atlético’s disappointing midweek result against Real Sociedad sapped most of the flair out of Saturday’s clash against Málaga, the match is still a vital one for los Rojiblancos in their quest to guarantee themselves a place in a continental competition for next season.
The final home game of the season gets underway at the same time as all the other Primera Divsión matches will kick off, at 21:00 CET.
While a Europa League title on Wednesday would grant them an automatic berth into next year’s edition of the tournament, a loss could leave los Colchoneros fighting for qualification until the final week, a scenario they can come closer to avoiding if they can take the three points from their foes this weekend.
A victory over their upstart Andalusian opponents would also leave the door open for possible Champions League qualification, making for a thrilling Made-in-Atleti finish to the 2011/12 Liga campaign.
Rojiblanco boss Diego Simeone once again has a bit of a quandary on his hands, this time versus the team he made his coaching debut with Atlético against in an away tie at the Rosaleda that ended in a 0-0 draw back on the 7th of January.
With the Europa League final looming on Wednesday, does Simeone rest key players such as Arda, Diego, Adrián or even Falcao to assure they arrive to Bucharest in one piece, or does he take a final stab at the Champions League and go all out against los Boquerones?
The Atlético legend has, in the past, boldly proclaimed that we take every competition seriously, so it will be interesting to see what approach ‘El Cholo’ will take for this game.
Los Colchoneros announced, through the club’s official Twitter account, that the match selection will not be revealed until Saturday afternoon, but what we do know is that Gabi’s name will not be appearing on it.
About 15 minutes after scoring our opening and only goal against La Real on Wednesday, the Atleti midfielder promptly – within four minutes – saw two yellow cards and was dismissed with a red, forcing him out of this crucial encounter with a one-match suspension.
Tiago, who is banned from the final against Athletic Bilbao, returns from league suspension for this game.
The Spanish press reported Antonio López and Sílvio were finally back in training on Friday, but it’s unclear if they will be fit to take part on Saturday.
Defender Luis Perea, who on Thursday announced he will not be returning for his ninth campaign with Atleti, has been recovering from a hamstring injury and will likely sit this one out.
Rumours in the Spanish media this week seemed to suggest that this could also very likely be the last time leading scorer Falcao suits up in our lovely red and white shirt before the home fans.
El Pais reporter José Marcos ominously wrote on Twitter, “Atléticos of the world, enjoy Falcao for what little is left of the season. You will see him at the Calderón for the last time on Saturday,” without adding any more details.
Is this the end of the Colombian Colchonero connection?
Manuel Pellegrini’s men lead us by five points and have just about locked up European play for next season.
“I can’t say what will happen with Atletico, I can only assure that we will go to try and win the game by playing better than they do,” Pellegrini was quoted as saying by ESPN Soccernet.
“We have never put in place a firm objective, at the moment we have achieved a Europa League place and now we are looking for the Champions League. The team will arrive mentally in very good shape and physically perfect.”
The former Real Madrid coach, when talking about his squad’s condition, is referring to the fact that he rested a host of key players against Barcelona in his side’s 4-1 loss on Wednesday to have a better chance of taking points from this bout against us.
Regular starters Nacho Monreal, Weligton and Joaquín did not see a minute of action against the Blaugrana, while Isco, suspended for that game, also arrives well-rested for this fixture.
Enzo Maresca did not travel to Madrid because of injury.
Atlético match selection: TBA
Málaga match selection:
Goalkeepers: Kameni, Rubén,
Defenders: Gámez, Weligton, Demichelis, Monreal, Sergio Sánchez,
Midfielders: Camacho, Joaquín, Cazorla, Duda, Eliseu, Buonanotte, Isco, Portillo, Recio
Forwards: Van Nistelrooy, Seba, Rondón, Juanmi,
Referee: César Muñiz Fernández