Atlético will have a chance to reclaim second place on Easter Sunday when they host Valencia in their return to La Liga action following an extended international break.
The match at the Vicente Calderón, los Colchoneros’ first at their stronghold since suffering defeat for the first time there this season three weeks ago, gets underway at 21:00 CET.
The men in red and white will face off against the first squad to hand them a loss in the present campaign after having gotten the campaign off to a 14-game unbeaten streak.
Diego Simeone’s hombres would widen the gap between themselves and their fifth-placed Valencian opponents to a virtually insurmountable 18-point lead with a victory in the rematch in the Spanish capital.
‘El Cholo’, as he is wont to do, called for a full house on the day of the holiday celebrating the resurrection of Atleti, known as ‘Koke Day’ in smaller circles.
“I imagine a packed stadium against an important opponent,” the Argentine coach said.
“They have a great team, with great players in almost all sectors of the pitch and they are very good at set pieces.
“We’ll be two teams with intentions: us, to keep our place and them, to continue growing in search of getting themselves into one of the best spots in the league.
“Surely, it will be an entertaining game.”
Tiago re-joined the squad in training this week and is fully recovered from the surgery to repair his fractured forearm, but Juanfran will be out through suspension.
Right-back duties will be the responsibility of canterano Javi Manquillo, called-up for this clash along with B-team buddy Óliver.
Cholo made it clear on Wednesday Manquillo will be replacing Juanfran on the right flank.
Diego Godín returns from a ban that prevented the central defender from taking part in our trip to Pamplona a fortnight ago.
Some guy named Insúa or something or other also made Simeone’s list, rounding out the squad.
Los Che hitman Roberto Soldado, who has injected a lot of venom into this match-up in recent years, will miss out with an ankle injury and probably considers himself lucky he won’t have to enter the lair of our ‘Beauty’ and our ‘Beast’.
Soldado broke the deadlock back when we travelled to Valencia in November, a game in which he stomped on Falcao’s forehead and left our ‘Tigre’ with a lasting facial scar.
Centre back Victor Ruíz will also be out with a knock.
Unavailable to manager Ernesto Valverde are Adil Rami and Sofiane Feghouli, both suspended for this contest.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Asenjo, Courtois
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Cata, Insúa, Miranda, Manquillo
Midfielders: Mario, Tiago, Koke, Raúl, Arda, Cebolla, Gabi, Óliver
Forwards: Adrián, Costa, Falcao
Valencia match selection:
Goalkeepers: Diego Alves, Guaita
Defenders: Cissokho, Joao, Barragán, Guardado, Ricardo Costa, Mathieu,
Midfielders: Albelda, Éver, Piatti, Vieira, Dani Parejo, Tino Costa, Bernat
Forwards: Jonas, Valdez, Canales
Referee: Javier Estrada Fernández