Atlético welcome Deportivo de La Coruña to the Vicente Calderón on Sunday (19:00 CET) on the back of consecutive defeats in La Liga and the Europa League, though they remain in second place in the domestic competition and have qualified to the next round of the UEFA tournament.
So what’s all the fuss about?
After their majestic Super Cup performance and ensuing 13-game win streak in all competitions, los Rojiblancos have lost some of their lustre, particularly on the road.
The club have only scored one goal in their last five exits, the lone strike coming in Granada.
It kind of feels like their Super Mario Bros.-like invincibility star power has run out and the speed of their music has returned to normal rhythm.
Atleti boss Diego Simeone called for his men to return to that faster cadence against Depor.
“The team needs to continue on a firm pace and play a match with intensity in which we can take advantage of our game and impede Deportivo’s chances,” the Argentine tactician told reporters ahead of the clash.
“They have quality players in the midfield and up front that we have to pay the utmost attention to,” he added, specifically mentioning former Colchonero Juan Carlos Valerón, who he said “no one will be discovering [on Sunday]”.
With regard to his squad’s recent dip in form and the club’s devastating ninth straight derby defeat, Simeone said:
“When you lose, the best thing you can do is win immediately after. After the loss in the league we have to remain focussed on the path we’ve been on, which is a very good one.”
‘El Cholo’ then defended Diego Costa, who has been the subject of some criticism following a feisty showing against Real Madrid and a red card in Pilsen at the midweek in Europa League play.
“I love Diego Costa,” he said. “He’s a player we need and hopefully he’ll have a good game tomorrow, because he will play. We believe in him.
“I don’t care what anyone else says.”
On the line this weekend is Atlético’s perfect record at home in the current campaign. Cholo’s hombres have defeated all 11 visitors to the Calderón in the 2012/13 season.
Arda, Filipe, Falcao and Gabi — all on four yellows — are in danger of missing out on next weekend’s trip to Barcelona.
It will be interesting to see if ‘El Cholo’ manages the situation accordingly, by removing or even benching one of his starters on Sunday to prevent a fifth booking and automatic one-match ban.
Filipe Luís, who spent four seasons at the A Coruña-based outfit, has recovered from the groin injury that prevented him from lining up against Real Madrid.
Cristian ‘Cebolla’ Rodríguez remains sidelined with a hamstring injury, while Miranda will not be available as he serves a one-game suspension for having seen his fifth yellow of the season in the derby.
Meanwhile, Sílvio, Cisma and Joel were left off the squad through tactical decision.
Our freshly-promoted opponents, who only spent a single year in Segunda División following relegation in the 2010/11 season, once again find themselves in a precarious situation as they sit at the bottom of the table with 11 points and only two wins so far in the present term.
Former Depor attacker Adrián, who left the club after his contract expired in 2010/11, admitted he’s excited to face his friends at Deportivo, though he added, “I hope they start winning every game after their visit to the Calderón.”
Blues and Whites boss José Luis Oltra will not have Pizzi, on-loan from Atleti, at his disposal for this game.
The alleged €13 million man will not be suiting up against his former team-mates as Depor refused to pay the contractually required fee.
The Portuguese winger, who only scored 1 goal in 16 appearances (2 as a starter) with Atleti last season, has been critical for Depor. He has already scored 4 goals and tallied 2 assists with his current team, so his absence will certainly be felt.
To make matters worse for Oltra, five other regular starters will not be making the trip to Madrid.
Nelson Oliveira, Carlos Marchena, Zé Castro and Saúl are all out with injuries, while Aythami will serve suspension for five yellows.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Sergio Asenjo, Courtois
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Pulido, Cata Díaz, Juanfran, Manquillo
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda Turan, Gabi, Emre
Forwards: Adrián, Falcao, Diego Costa
Deportivo match selection:
Goalkeepers: Aranzubia, Germán Lux
Defenders: Manuel Pablo, Laure, Roderick, Insua, Ayoze
Midfielders: Álex Bergantiños, Abel Aguilar, Jesús Vázquez, André Santos, Juan Domínguez, Camuñas, Bruno Gama, Salomão, Valerón
Forwards: Riki, Bodipo
Referee: Alejandro José Hernández Hernández