Atlético will be back in Andalusia following their midweek qualification to the Copa del Rey final in Seville, this time taking on Málaga in La Liga action.
Kick-off at La Rosaleda gets underway at 19:00 CET on Sunday.
Rojiblanco boss Diego Simeone will be making his return to the site of his debut at the helm of Atleti.
His work since that 0-0 draw back in January 2012 down in the south of Spain? Not too bad some would say.
Real Madrid’s second victory in less than a week over Barcelona, this time in league play on Saturday, leaves Atleti with a chance of closing the gap between themselves and the league-leading Blaugrana down to nine points.
The Blancos’ triumph was the type of result that served as a painful reminder to those of us Colchoneros who felt, or continue to feel, that a league title has always been beyond our reach, when in fact, a slightly better record on the road would have us within striking distance of the Culés.
Ah well. We can whine about that another day.
“I expect the team to be okay after a couple of days of recovery,” Simeone told reporters on Saturday with regard to his squad’s limited rest time after dispatching Sevilla from the Copa on Wednesday.
“We hope to come into this important match against a Málaga side that play very well, with a lot of command, at a great stadium and coached by a great manager.
“It’s a great game to play.”
‘El Cholo’ addressed questions regarding the absence of his preferred midfield duo of Gabi and Tiago–the Spaniard being suspended after seeing red last weekend and the Portuguese having fractured a bone in his forearm at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán.
The Argentine tactician admitted that Mario, Koke and ‘Cebolla’ Rodríguez will all find themselves in the starting line-up for this clash and then praised Tiago, who is expected to be sidelined for several weeks after undergoing surgery on Thursday.
“Tiago is extremely important to the group,” he said.
“He’s a guy that is very well-loved by his teammates. He’s a hard worker and a player who was patient in the first half of the season and later responded the way I always imagined he would and the way he had done last season.”
Cholo called-up a pair of our favourite youngsters from the B team, with midfielders Saúl and Óliver Torres set to make the trip.
Defenders Cisma and Pulido will start…to reconsider why they are at Atleti, the not-so-dynamic duo being left off the squad yet again.
Left-back Insúa travels and may just get lucky enough to make his debut in red and white at some point during the encounter, but we doubt it.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men will be playing out of pride, not only because they will more than likely be banned from UEFA competition next season regardless of where they finish in the standings, but also because they come into this bout on the back of consecutive losses.
A week ago the Anchovies were pounded 3-0 by Betis in Seville days after suffering Champions League defeat in Porto.
“When you lose a match, it’s tough to regain a positive spirit over the week,” Pellegrini was quoted as saying by ESPNFC.
“We’re very conscious of the games we’ve lost, but football changes week after week. We’re hoping to return to the same winning form we’ve shown for the majority of the season.”
The Chilean will be without the injured Eliseu and Sergio Sánchez, while Atleti youth academy product Ignacio Camacho will serve suspension after being shown his marching orders at Betis.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Asenjo, Courtois
Defenders: Godín, Miranda, Filipe Luís, Juanfran, Cata, Insúa
Midfielders: Mario, Koke, Raúl García, Arda, Cebolla, Saúl, Óliver
Forwards: Adrián, Falcao, Costa
Málaga match selection:
Goalkeepers: Kameni, Willy
Defenders: Jesús Gámez, Weligton, Lugano, Demichelis, Antunes
Midfielders: Joaquín, Toulalan, Lucas Piazon, Morales, Duda, Isco
Forwards: Saviola, Seba Fernández, Iturra, Portillo, Santa Cruz
Referee: Jesús Gil Manzano