Having taken 10 points from their opening four games, Atlético have made their best start to a La Liga season since the famous doblete of 1995/96.
Now, the team faces what will probably be their biggest test so far, with a re-arranged trip to a Betis side who have also made a roaring start in their second season back in the top tier.
Kick-off in the Benito Villamarín is set for 21:00 CET on Wednesday night.
At the weekend, Diego Simeone’s team continued their excellent recent form with a 2-1 win over Valladolid, although for the second week running we were made to suffer for it.
The result was distorted by an uncharacteristic second half mistake from Thibaut Courtois, which, like against Rayo the previous Sunday, turned a dominant performance into a more desperate one.
However, we got away with the three points, and now face a difficult away match that will really test our credentials for a top-four finish.
We were originally supposed to travel to Betis on the Monday after our Super Cup triumph but, due to international involvement, were forced to postpone the clash until September 26th, meaning we won’t get a midweek break like the rest of the teams in the league.
Our opponents are on a good run at the moment, with two narrow 1-0 wins in the last week putting them just a point behind ourselves in the race for the European spots.
The main news for us is that star striker Radamel Falcao has been included in the squad, and will be in the matchday squad tomorrow. He was hauled off at half-time on Sunday after scoring from the penalty spot, but looks to have shaken off what was supposedly a minor groin strain.
Whether he’ll be fit enough to start remains to be seen, and although Cholo has confirmed that he’s in good condition, he hinted that other options may also be used, such as Adrián or the in-form Diego Costa.
Goalkeeper Courtois is another who has emerged as a surprise doubt for the game, but has made the squad along with Asenjo, and if needed, Joel.
Also, Kader is fit again after a broken collarbone and makes the trip, but an achilles injury means that Emre will remain in Madrid, along with Sílvio, Pulido and Cisma.
“In principle, Falcao is fine to play,” said Simeone in his press conference today. “Adrián is getting better too, and we are looking to rediscover his best version.
“Our aim is to improve the team’s goalscoring potential, as it is healthy to have different players who can find the net.”
The former Racing coach also identified the threat posed by the Verdiblancos, and went on to single out midfielder Beñat for individual praise.
“Betis are a team who play a very fast style, all of their players are alert at any moment,” he affirmed. “Beñat especially is extraordinary, he has great vision and makes the team play.”
For the home side, scorer of their winning goal against Espanyol on Sunday, Paulão, will not be available after spraining his ankle in that game, but they will be able to call upon Rubén Pérez, who is on loan from Atlético.
The 23-year-old made one substitute appearance for us back in 2010, but has spent the last two years away at Deportivo and Getafe. When speaking on Monday, he seemed fully focused on getting a win over his parent club.
“For me it’s just another game, but it’s the first time I can play against them which is pleasing,” he said. “I don’t feel I have anything to prove.”
Rubén also spoke about Falcao, and admitted he would be pleased if the Colombian superstar missed Wednesday’s clash.
“It’s better for us if Falcao is out. He is one of the most in form strikers at the moment, and will provide a great threat if he does play.”
Atleti will return to Madrid via the AVE train after the game, and begin preparing for another tough away trip to Espanyol on Sunday night.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Asenjo, Courtois, Joel
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Cata Díaz, Juanfran, Miranda
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda, Cristian Rodríguez, Gabi, Kader
Forwards: Adrián, Falcao, Diego Costa
Referee: Alfonso Javier Álvarez Izquierdo