After crashing out of Europe and falling well out of touch with runaway league leaders Barcelona, Atlético’s hopes of a trophy hinge entirely on Wednesday’s crunch cup clash with Sevilla.
2-1 up from the first leg almost a month ago, the job is far from done, and we can expect a hostile Sánchez Pizjuán, as well as a manager in Unai Emery who will be looking for revenge given the Colchoneros continental triumphs over his Valencia sides in recent years.
Kick-off in Andalusia is set for 22:00 CET.
Our apologies for changing the subject briefly, but if you missed it, Real Madrid booked their place in this year’s Copa del Rey final with an emphatic 3-1 win away at arch rivals Barcelona earlier on Tuesday evening.
Now, either Atlético or Sevilla can join them, with fans of the capital-based side already dreaming of the prospect of a Madrid derby should they see off the challenge of the Nervionenses Wednesday night.
With Falcao out, it was man of the moment Diego Costa who stepped up the plate in the previous match, converting twice from the spot to ensure his side made the trip south with an advantage.
However, in the midst of the Brazilian’s double, Álvaro Negredo also struck from 12 yards to give Sevilla a crucial away goal, and real hope going into what is the biggest game of the season so far for either team.
Rubin Kazan became the first team to defeat Diego Simeone over a two-legged tie in his time at Atleti, and the Argentine will be hoping to avoid a repeat against his former side. He spoke to journalists in Majadahonda earlier this week.
“I think, whatever happens, it will be a good game,” he said. “We will try to play well and continue to be competitive. We’re up against a great rival with good players.
“For me, the team that dominates the midfield will have control of the game. That’s one of the keys. Whoever manages to be stronger in midfield is more likely to do well because both teams offensively have good players.”
Cholo also highlighted just how important the game will be to the fans, with an estimated 3,000 expected in Seville.
“The match produces great enthusiasm for the fans, but the players are focused on playing their game and coming home with the victory,” he insisted. “We have a great opportunity to reach the final and we will try to do that for all the people connected to Atlético Madrid.”
Squad-wise, every first team player has made the trip apart from Diego Godín, who is suspended for his red card in the reverse fixture. We do have our star striker back and on form though, with Radamel Falcao having found the net in 4 of our last 5.
The home side have also called on all of their available players, but will miss Fernando Navarro and Emir Spahić, both banned for the same offence. The latter has most likely already played his last game for the club though, expected to sign for Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala before their domestic transfer window shuts on Thursday.
With their away goal, Sevilla fans are hopeful of a comeback and have good reason to be, their form having taken a real upturn since the appointment of Unai Emery last month.
Simeone is yet to lose any of his four clashes with the ex-Valencia boss, and got the better of him in last year’s Europa League semi-finals with a superb 5-2 aggregate victory. However, he is not the only one looking for revenge.
Sevilla, of course, were the side that overcame us in the 2010 final, but this time only one will make it that far. Emery spoke to the local press on Tuesday, choosing to remain cautious despite the wave of optimism that is capturing their fanbase.
“We’re still motivated on every level, but we need to make sure that we don’t become over-excited,” he said. “You need to use your bite when it’s the right time, not just for the sake of it.”
“I don’t want the players to come out with teeth bared, bite and get a red card. They have to isolate themselves a bit from this over-excitement, which can be positive as well as negative.”
“We have to remind them that their motivation has to be controlled so that it doesn’t lead to a loss of balance and we can avoid shooting ourselves in the foot,” he finished.
Whether we get there or not, Friday 17th May seems the most likely date for this year’s final, with the obvious motivation of a showdown with Real Madrid awaiting the winner.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Asenjo, Courtois
Defenders: Filipe, Pulido, Cisma, Cata Díaz, Juanfran, Insúa, Miranda,
Midfielders: Mario, Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda, Cristian Rodríguez, Gabi
Forwards: Adrián, Falcao, Diego Costa
Sevilla match selection:
Goalkeepers: Palop, Beto
Defenders: Fazio, Coke, Botía, Cicinho, Cala, Alberto Moreno
Midfielders: Rakitic, Navas, Reyes, Medel, Perotti, Maduro, Trochowski, Campaña, Hervás, Kondogbia, Stevanović
Forwards: Negredo, Manu, Baba