Following their first league loss at home last week, Atleti will be desperate to get back to winning ways against another of the league’s Basque sides after losing more ground to Real Madrid earlier on.
Osasuna are the opponents on Sunday evening, always a tough place to go despite the Red and Whites having won there two years running.
Kick-off in the Reyno de Navarra is set for 19:00 CET.
Last weekend in-form Real Sociedad silenced the Vicente Calderón, becoming the first side to take away points from us in the league since themselves last May.
The defeat also meant that we finally fell behind rivals Real Madrid in the race for second place, and their gap extended to four points on Saturday as they routed Manzano’s Mallorca in the Bernabéu.
Osasuna on the other hand will be desperate to win for different reasons. They currently reside just clear of the relegation zone, and can be expected to fight until the end in typical fashion.
In terms of team selection, the main news is that Atleti will miss the suspended Diego Godín for the trip, so we can expect to see Cata Díaz again partnering Miranda in defence.
The disruption of our centre-backs has been a common theme in recent away matches especially, and it has proved costly against the likes of Rayo, Athletic and Mallorca where crucial points were dropped.
Mario Suárez returns from suspension to add some much-needed depth in midfield, but Tiago is still out with injury. Óliver Torres also keeps his place in the squad, and Jorge Pulido comes in.
Before a more in-depth interview on Canal Plus last night, Simeone touched on Sunday’s match earlier in the week, and analysed the threat posed by Osasuna.
“They play very well in midfield and up front,” he said. “The numbers are always important and they are a team that have conceded very few goals. I imagine a tight game in midfield, with little space to play with.”
“The team that takes advantage of their chances will be closer to winning the game.”
The Argentine boss also highlighted the importance of bouncing back from last Sunday’s disappointment, as well as stressing that he still hopes to finish above Real Madrid.
“To have split Barcelona and Real Madrid through the whole campaign gives me great pride. Seeing what Barça do on a daily basis reinforces everything that we have been doing here.”
Also speaking was former Osasuna man Raúl García, who scored against his old side in the reverse fixture last October and lined up for los Rojillos in our 1-0 win in Pamplona last season.
“It’s the first game I look for when the fixtures come out,” he said.
“We expect a difficult game, it is a field in which the fans really help the team and Osasuna are playing well enough to fill the stadium, there will be a great atmosphere.”
“Our target is to get into the Champions League, and we will keep fighting for second place until end of season. We come to Pamplona confident of getting a win,” he finished.
It was the suspended Godín who won the match between these sides last year in Simeone’s first month in charge, and in 2010/11 current man of the moment Diego Costa was the hero, hitting a hat-trick in a 3-2 win.
With Forlán and Agüero not involved that day, the Brazilian showed the quality that we have recently started seeing on a more consistent basis, all three of his goals sublimely taken.
He will most likely start again in attack tomorrow, before leaving with Brazil for the international break that will see club football come to a halt for the next fortnight. We start up again on March 31st, when Valencia visit the Calderón in a crucial top four clash.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Asenjo, Courtois
Defenders: Filipe Luis, Cata Díaz, Juanfran, Insúa, Miranda, Pulido
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Koke, Raúl García, Arda, Cristian Rodríguez, Gabi, Óliver
Forwards: Adrián, Falcao, Diego Costa