Atlético take on Betis on Sunday for the fourth time in the present campaign, the sides having faced off once in La Liga in Sevilla, and in home and away legs in Copa del Rey knockout action.
Kick-off at the Vicente Calderón, where Atleti hope to make it 20 wins a row, is set for 21:00 CET.
Los Rojiblancos eliminated their Verdiblanco foes 3-1 on aggregate less than a fortnight ago, having previously defeated them 4-2 at the Benito Villamarín in league play back in September.
Diego Simeone’s men come into this clash following an embarrassing display in Bilbao last weekend though, the Basques having trounced los Colchoneros 3-0 in a match that featured four Atleti substitutes.
Athletic killer Radamel Falcao missed the trip to San Mamés, and also sat out the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final game at ‘Cholo Castle’ against Sevilla.
The Colombian was in attendance however, and watched his team-mates go on to win a wild affair 2-1 that helped the squad look past their Bilbao woes.
Atleti will be boosted by ‘El Tigre’s’ return for this bout. The striker trained with the group having recovered from the hamstring injury he suffered in the match versus Levante that forced him to rest the past three games and is expected to start.
The always critical-to-our-attack Filipe Luís will serve a one-match ban, while Thibaut Courtois and Emiliano Insúa both practised apart from the squad.
The goalkeeper has a strained neck but should be good to go by game time, but there’s uncertainty regarding the availability of our new signing and back-up left back Insúa.
‘El Cholo’ refused to release a squad list for the encounter, preferring to wait and see who’s fit to take part.
“We’ll all go to the Calderón tomorrow morning and we’ll determine who is okay to play,” the Argentine tactician told reporters at Saturday’s press conference.
“Insúa has a muscular strain and we’ll see how it evolves.”
The Atleti boss warned that the familiarity between the two clubs will make the game a difficult one.
“We know how they play and they know how we play,” he said.
“They’re a team that have a lot of creativity and speed from the midfield up. They’re coming off a week of rest and, obviously, they intend to capitalise on that. We’ll have to recover well.
“Thursday’s match was very tough and hopefully we can play a great game.”
With regard to superstar Falcao’s upcoming trip to Miami for a friendly between Colombia and Guatemala on Wednesday, Cholo said:
“I’d rather not opine on Falcao having to go play with Colombia. It wouldn’t be pretty.”
Speaking of not pretty, the ‘Beast of the Manzanares’ (aka Diego Costa) was showered with praise by Betis head coach Pepe Mel on Saturday.
“I expect my players to give their all just like Diego Costa does,” Mel said.
“It’s horrifying to face off against him and magnificent to have him on your team. He’s a player that does it all. We’ll have to go after the ball hard and with resolve just like Diego Costa does.”
Mel’s men were pounded 3-0 by Rayo in Vallecas last weekend, but still remain in great position in the fight for the final Champions League spot–tied with Málaga in fourth place with 35 points apiece.
The Madrid-born tactician has had to manage without several injured players in Álex, Juan Carlos, Pozuelo and Nosa, but the club have brought in Colombia international Dorlan Pabón, who will likely debut with his new team at the Calderón.
In addition to the Cafetero striker, Betis snagged Uruguayan-born Swedish attacker Guillermo Molins from Anderlecht on loan.
Atlético match selection: TBA
Betis match selection: TBA
Referee: Alberto Undiano Mallenco