Atlético Madrid commence their Copa del Rey campaign on Wednesday night, with Segunda B outfit Real Jaén the hosts for Diego Simeone’s first cup game at the helm.
Our last outing in the competition was an infamous 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Albacete back in December, which led to Gregorio Manzano’s dismissal as manager.
Kick-off in Andalusia is 20:00 CET.
As far as league form goes, the Rojiblancos are still going strong and remain level with leaders Barcelona, so understandably our attention at the moment is focused almost solely on keeping the run going.
Our latest win came on Sunday against lowly Osasuna, and at the weekend we face perhaps our most difficult test so far, away to Champions League rivals Valencia.
However, tomorrow’s clash in Jaén will not be taken lightly, with a rather generous draw for this year’s Copa del Rey allowing fans to dream of perhaps another final appearance in 2013.
Like in the Europa League though, our key players will get the night off and a chance to rest, giving an opportunity to some of the squad’s fringe players to prove their worth to the coaching staff.
Falcao, Arda, Juanfran, Miranda, Filipe, Tiago, Emre, and Godín weren’t with the travelling party that headed south this afternoon, but Sílvio, Cisma and Pulido all return after being overlooked at the weekend.
Four players from Atlético B also got the call, including teenage stars Saúl Ñíguez and Óliver Torres. The latter attracted a lot of attention during the summer, but due to his ineligibility for the Europa League has not been involved with the first team since August.
Kader Oueslati, who made his first appearance of the season as a winger for the reserve side on Sunday, is another in contention, as well as striker and last year’s top scorer Pedro Martín.
Senegalese defender Fallou Gallas, from Atleti C, had also been called-up, but in the end it was decided that the 18 year-old would stay in Madrid instead.
In his press conference, Simeone insisted that he is keen to give minutes to our canteranos, and underlined the importance of coming away with a good result in the tournament he won as a player back in 1996.
“We know these players are there and available for us in any competition, even if they haven’t been used so much recently,” he said.
“The cup will be valued in our best way, and we know we are up against a strong team with a good midfield. We will go with our normal mentality.”
The Argentine boss also came up with a great quote when asked about aggression towards players from the crowd in Spanish football, playing down the impact it has on them.
“Aggression?” he responded. “Here going to a match is like the theatre. Compared to Argentina, this is Disney.”
Coming into Wednesday’s encounter, Jaén are in a similar situation to ourselves in their respective league and currently sit just a point off top-spot in Group 3 of the Segunda División B.
Manager Manolo Herrero is looking to lead his team back into the second tier, where they last met Atleti just over a decade ago in 2002. When speaking earlier in the week, he appeared to be relishing the chance to take on the red and whites.
“Atlético are one of the most important teams in Europe,” he said. “It’s a special game for us, and we will try to leave a good image and provide a special atmosphere.”
Reports state that the home side have completely sold out their stadium for the match, with around 17,000 fans expected in the Nuevo Estadio de la Victoria.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Asenjo, Courtois
Defenders: Pulido, Cisma, Sílvio, Cata Díaz, Kader
Midfielders: Mario, Koke, Raúl García, Cristian Rodríguez, Gabi, Saúl, Óliver
Forwards: Adrián, Diego Costa, Pedro