Match preview: Espanyol vs. Atlético

Big test for Atlético without Radamel Falcao

Atletico Madrid defender Filipe against Espanyol s Javi Chica

Filipe and Javi Chica (

Atlético Madrid continue on the road as they travel to Barcelona to take on Espanyol in round 6 of La Liga.

The match at the Cornellà-El Prat is set for 21.30 CET on Sunday night.

For the Rojiblancos it will be a chance to continue their 6-game winning streak and to edge closer to league leaders FC Barcelona, after a midweek win at Real Betis propelled Atlético to the second spot in the league table.

The runners up are Spain’s highest scoring team with 15 goals and have gone unbeaten this campaign, collecting 12 points from four games after tying with Levante on the opening day.

Although nine other players have also contributed, Atlético are dependent on their Colombian star striker who’s already bagged 10 goals this campaign. On Sunday, the team faces a big test because current Radamel Falcao will not be present. A groin injury keeps El Tigre behind in Madrid and locked in his cage.

In the absence of the current Pichichi leader, we will look for his strike partners to provide some firing power. It’s uncertain if Adrián will feature from the start, as last season’s revelation has been struggling with his form so far and Diego Simeone might instead opt to play with three offensive midfielders behind a lone striker.

That man will most likely be Diego Costa. The Brazilian has been given a new chance at Atlético and has put up impressive numbers lately, including assists, won penalties and goals – his last one being the game winning strike just seconds after coming on against Betis.

Simeone also has an injury problem at the other end of the pitch, although it seems goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is fit to return to his place between the sticks. The Belgian joined his teammates in Friday’s training session after sitting out Wednesday’s match in Sevilla, where his understudy Sergio Asenjo was both unlucky and unconvincing for both goals that were conceded.

To avoid any risks, Cholo decided to bring three ‘keepers in our 20 man match selection, which also includes Cisma and Kader, who are both preferred over Sílvio and Jorge Pulido.

Espanyol also welcome back players that spent the last game on the sidelines. Centre back duo Diego Colotto and Juan Forlín have recovered from a broken foot and gastroenitis, respectively, and will provide some much needed security at the back.

The Catalans’ start to the season has been horrendous, picking up just a single point from their first five games. Los Pericos currently are joint last in the Primera División and will hope to improve their home record, which includes a 3-3 draw with Athletic Club and a 2-1 loss against Real Zaragoza.

At the Cornellà-El Prat we’re likely to run into a familiar face. This summer Espanyol signed Simão Sabrosa on a free transfer, after his deal with Besiktas in Istanbul had expired. So far the Portuguese winger, who has lost the pace that made him a favorite during his 4-year spell at the Vicente Calderón, has made two appearances.

Espanyol coach Mauricio Pochettino will be without combative midfielder Wakaso, who sits out a one game suspension, but at least striker Samuele Longo returns to give the Argentine some options up front.

During Saturday’s press conference, Pochettino looked ahead to the upcoming game.

“This will be the best opponent we’ve faced so far, both in points and in confidence. Right now, Atlético are in a great dynamic, but we are prepared to take the three points.”

“Falcao is one of the best strikers in the world and, for us, it’s good news that he won’t be available. But surely there are other players to take his place.”

“We are in a negative dynamic and what we need to do is to continue our plans, to show mental strength and to avoid adversity. For me, tomorrow has to be the day of our first victory, and it will be.”

Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Asenjo, Courtois, Joel
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Cisma, Cata Díaz, Juanfran, Miranda, Kader
Midfielders: Mario, Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda, Cristian Rodríguez, Gabi, Emre
Forwards: Adrián, Diego Costa

Espanyol match selection:
C. Álvarez, Raúl Rodríguez, Víctor Sánchez, Tejera, Forlín, Stuani, Verdú, Rui Fonte, Longo, Kiko Casilla, Galán, Héctor Moreno, Javi López, Capdevila, Colotto, Simao, Cristian Gómez and Víctor Álvarez.

  • Kabir

    i keep hating fabregas more and more

  • Sinan

    Well it’s good for us that Sevilla has lost. Sevilla, Malaga and Valencia are our direct rivals.. They need to waste points.

  • Kabir

    maybe, but a draw would have been ideal.

  • starvs

    Not really, draw gives Sevilla a point. Doesn’t matter if Barca gets a point as well, we never gonna realistically beat them in the league.

  • Sevilla are not that good a team really, i mean, conceding two goals in a matter of minutes is bad enough, but at home? Ah well, at least it wont be too long till they are out of the picture for CL…

  • Shlomgar

    Barca and Real looks like sh@#t. Sevilla wining would have shown that. We look great. 1st place would have shown that.

  • Kabir

    if you don’t have aspirations of winning the league, how do you consider yourself a fan? in the 95/96 season we actually were far from favorites. the season before we finished in the bottom half of the table. we were never a powerhouse in the 90’s.
    the maximum points are lost when 2 teams draw: 4.

    we can win the league. i’m not saying it’s easy, but it is a realistic possibility.

  • starvs

    okay yes it is possible to win the league, but quite frankly less important than making champions league. Not making CL means Falcao is probably certainly gone, and Falcao is the type of piece you need to truly become a global power, thus Baca winning is actually best result, became they are obviously at very least making CL.

  • Kabir

    Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

    In other words, aspiring for 1st place it’s probable we will land in a cl finish

  • Ind

    This is turning out one hell of a season for atleti.
    Go Rojiblancos!!
    [Atleti since ’06]