Atlético play their final game of 2012 on Friday evening, and will be looking for win number 40 of the calendar year when Celta Vigo pull up at the Vicente Calderón.
It’s been a memorable year for all Rojiblancos, and the team will be looking to put recent defeats behind them with a win against the newly promoted side.
Kick-off in Madrid is set for 22:00 CET.
On Sunday, Diego Simeone’s team suffered their third loss of the month, as runaway leaders Barcelona all but ended our optimistic hopes of a title challenge with a comprehensive 4-1 win.
However, with Real Madrid dropping points at home to Espanyol earlier in the day, we can maintain a healthy four-point gap going into the new year with a win tomorrow.
With Christmas coming up, the La Liga schedule has been brought forward a day, which means we play 24 hours before the other top three sides, who travel to Valladolid and Málaga, respectively.
The main team news ahead of the game is that Filipe Luís misses out after limping off at the Camp Nou, although Uruguayan winger Cristian Rodríguez does return from a muscle injury.
It was reported in the week that Javi Manquillo would replace Filipe, but surprisingly the teenager hasn’t even made the squad, so Cata Díaz or Domingo Cisma will step in.
The Brazilian full-back is the only absentee for the red and whites, but canteranos Jorge Pulido and Joel, and the outgoing Sílvio miss out through technical decision.
Elsewhere, the team is likely to remain the same as the one that has played the recent league games, with Diego Costa and Koke lining up in attack alongside Falcao and Arda.
In his press conference, Simeone reflected on what has been a fine first year in charge, and as always was keen to credit the players where it was due.
“Above all, it’s been a great pleasure to manage a year at the club I had wanted,” he gushed. “I’ve been met with players who have shown great commitment, belonging and persistence, and we have proved together that we are a team.”
“They have helped us achieve wonderful things.”
The Argentine, who will be rushing off to catch a flight to his homeland less than an hour after the final decision, also spoke about the Celta game and the importance of getting three points before the winter break.
“Celta play well, we faced them in pre-season and were punished. They are strong in attack and have a very dynamic, positive midfield, with dangerous playes like Iago Aspas,” he said.
“We expect a tough game, but hope to play well and send the people home happy.”
His contract extension is expected to be announced sometime in the near future.
Our opponents currently sit just above the relegation zone, and will be desperate for a result to put distance between themselves and the bottom three.
However, they have lost seven of their eight away games in the league so far and, given our perfect home record, nothing less than a win will be sufficient.
Celta will be without first choice left-back Roberto Lago and defender Samuel due to injury, but otherwise have a full squad to choose from.
Manager Paco Herrera had plenty of good words to say about Atleti when speaking to the press in Vigo and, in particular, for Simeone.
“Atlético Madrid are a very complicated rival, especially when at home,” he admitted. “You can have more possession than them and end up losing 3-0, for example, against Deportivo they created eight chances and scored six goals.”
“They have tremendous ambition which has been transmitted by the coach; at no moment are the players able to relax and that will be the case tomorrow.”
After the match, players will have a week’s rest before returning to training around New Year’s, ready to prepare for the next game away to lowly Mallorca on January 6th.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Asenjo, Courtois
Defenders: Godín, Cata Díaz, Juanfran, Miranda, Cisma
Midfielders: Mario, Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda, Cristian Rodríguez, Gabi, Emre
Forwards: Adrián, Falcao, Diego Costa
Celta match selection:
Goalkeepers: Javi Varas, Sergio
Defenders: Hugo Mallo, Túñez, Jonathan Vila, Cabral, Bellvís
Midfielders: Alex López, Bustos, Oubiña, Joan Tomás, Toni, Krohn-Dehli, Augusto, Insa.
Forwards: Bermejo, Iago Aspas, Park, De Lucas