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.