Atlético Madrid return to the Vicente Calderón on Monday evening, and will be looking for their first La Liga win of the season against an Athletic Bilbao side out to avenge their Europa League defeat back in May.
Our triumph in Bucharest means we play the Super Cup just four days after taking on Los Leones, so you can expect widespread protests from the stands once the game gets underway tomorrow evening.
Kick-off in Madrid is set for of 22:00 CET, so we will just about finish on the same day we started this week.
Little over three months ago, Diego Simeone’s side put in one of their most memorable performances in recent history to overcome a much-fancied Athletic side in the Romanian capital.
The Basques dazzled us all in the Europa League and Copa del Rey campaigns last season, but it seems that after being almost humiliated in their two finals, enough is enough for some of their most sought after players.
Star striker Fernando Llorente delivered the damning news to fans a few weeks back that he wanted out, and midfield enforcer Javi Martínez has since been the subject of strong interest from German giants Bayern Munich. Neither will be involved in the Calderón.
Chaos has ensued in Bilbao, and the team were clearly feeling the effects in last week’s season opener against Real Betis, emphatically dismantled 5-3 in front of their own supporters, who, incidentally, have sided much against their two want away stars.
However, they responded in the best possible way with a 6-0 thrashing of Helsinki on Thursday, and may well come to the capital with a renewed sense of belief, despite the uncertainty that will surely follow before the end of the transfer window.
Atleti also could well see a lot of activity before Friday’s deadline, but head into the clash with a strong squad, boosted with the returns of Juanfran, Filipe Luís and Diego Costa from injury.
Young winger Kader will not be able to take part though, fracturing his collarbone in training yesterday following a clash with Cristián Rodríguez. Last week’s other debutant Óliver Torres keeps his place in the squad.
Speaking ahead of the clash, Simeone insisted that Athletic could not be taken lightly despite their current predicament, and that he anticipates a difficult test.
“I expect a competitive team. I know the coaching staff and I know that adversity will not stop them,” he said.
“They are strong and they work well. As a result, I expect the best version of Athletic, the team that featured in the last championship, in the cup and the league.”
Our opening day stalemate at Levante was, although slightly disappointing, not the end of the world as long as we make no mistakes on Monday, and it appears Cholo is just as eager as the rest of us to get back to winning ways.
“We hope to put in a good performance and a positive result back in the Calderón, where it is a joy for the players and for us all.”
For his part, Athletic boss Marcelo Bielsa admitted that his team were facing a sizeable task, but denied that they were looking for revenge from Bucharest.
“We can’t reverse what has already happened,” he said.
“The final was a lot more important than tomorrow’s game, but do not think that it is not of maximum importance to us.”
“Any project, except maybe Real Madrid or Barcelona, would be weakened without players such as Javi Martínez and Llorente. They are not invited for the game.”
In addition to the aforementioned duo, Athletic will also be without Jon Aurtenetxe and Fernando Amorebieta, both of whom also started the Europa League final. Ander Herrera is an injury doubt, but has made the trip.
After the game, Atlético may be forced to travel straight to Monaco the following day, to ensure they can have as much preparation possible before Friday’s showpiece Super Cup final against Chelsea.
Moment of silence to be held before kick-off
Atlético announced on their official website that a moment of silence will be held before proceedings get underway at the Vicente Calderón in honour of all Rojiblanco fans who passed away over the course of last season.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Courtois, Asenjo
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Sílvio, Cata Díaz, Juanfran, Miranda
Midfielders: Mario, Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda, Cristián Rodríguez, Gabi, Emre, Óliver
Forwards: Adrián, Falcao, Diego Costa
Athletic match selection:
Goalkeepers: Iraizoz, Raúl
Defenders: San José, Ramalho, Iraola, Ekiza, Xabi Castillo
Midfielders: De Marcos, Iturraspe, Susaeta, Gurpegi, Ander, Ibai, Iñigo Pérez, Ruiz de Galarreta
Forwards: Toquero, Muniain, Isma López, Aduriz, Igor Martínez
Referee: Fernando Teixeira Vitienes