It’s been a memorable season so far, but ultimately, however well you play, it’s what you have to show for it that counts most to people in the long run.
On Thursday, Atlético Madrid can take a big step in their hopes of winnin this year’s Copa del Rey, with Sevilla visiting the Calderón for a semi-final first leg that promises fireworks.
Kick-off in the Spanish capital is 22:00 CET.
On Sunday evening we were dismantled 3-0 at Athletic Bilbao, but there was no panic. The spine of our team was missing, and despite an unusually poor showing, everyone knew the attention had turned to tomorrow night’s crunch clash.
With one foot already firmly in next year’s Champions League, the suggestions are that Cholo and the team may look for success in the cups in the second half of the season, and against Sevilla, revenge is the order for the red and whites.
Under Quique Sánchez Flores in 2010, we were painfully beaten by the same opponents 2-0 in the final in Barcelona, just a week after ending out trophy hoodoo with a first Europa League title in Hamburg.
Some payback was served last November as we beat (or more accurately, thrashed) the Andalusians for the first time since that loss, but knocking them out of the same competition and making another final in the process would be even better–preferably in the same fashion as our recent league win.
A lot may hinge on team selection though. When top scorer Radamel Falcao limped off against Levante just 10 days ago, it looked as if he’d have no chance of making this game, but he is still yet to be officially ruled out.
Probably un-coincidentally, Simeone has kept his squad list private for the game, and will wait until Thursday to see if there is any chance he can call upon his star man.
The Colombian hasn’t trained with the group, but has done ball work and will be more determined than anyone to make it in time. However, as Cholo highlighted himself, it’s important not to rush him back and risk any further damage.
In his press conference, the former Racing and Catania boss also made it clear just how seriously his side will be taking this game and competition, remaining cautiously optimistic of overcoming the side he left to join Atleti back in 1994.
“It’s an important game,” he stressed. “It’s not every day you play in a semi-final, but we will try and do what we always do and follow the same dynamic we always have. Hopefully the people will be with us in the Calderón.”
The topic of Falcao was also discussed at length, and Simeone refused to rule him out of contention.
“He is working well, we gave him a little more work today but don’t have confirmation yet of whether he’ll be ready,” he said. “We hope he can play as he is crucially important to our team, just like Messi is for Barcelona or Cristiano for Madrid.”
“Either way, we expect a very tough game. They are a team who are dangerous with the wings, are have noticeably improved under Emery. He has brought more aggression and intensity to their game.”
As far as team news goes, we will most likely be at full strength aside from the obvious. Miranda, Koke and Gabi are all likely to return to the line-up, although it may be slightly too early for new signing Emiliano Insúa, who trained for the first time with his new teammates on Wednesday.
For Sevilla, the main news is that new signing Beto is likely to debut in goal, with the sale of Diego López and injury of Andrés Palop causing a small crisis earlier in this week.
B-team ‘stopper Julián was between the sticks in their 3-0 win over Granada on Monday, but is set to make way for the man joined on loan from Braga not even 24 hours ago.
They too are at full strength in all other areas though, which should make for the best game possible.
Since Unai Emery took the hot seat earlier this month their form has improved drastically, and the man who tasted semi-final defeat against the rojiblancos with his Valencia side last year, will be hoping that continues.
“It’s a difficult tie, but everything will be decided in Seville.” he said. “Atlético are having a great season and are second in the league on merit, but there is no guarantee that they will win, despite their home form we are confident.”
The return leg in the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán will take place on February 27th.
Atlético match selection: TBA
Sevilla match selection:
Goalkeepers: Julián, Beto
Defenders: Fazio, Spahic, Coke, Botía, Cicinho, Navarro
Midfielders: Rakitic, Navas, Medel, Reyes, Maduro, Hervás, Kondogbia, Stevanović
Forwards: Negredo, Manu, Baba