Following two successive draws and just one win in six games, Atlético will be looking for a much needed three points at home to Granada on Sunday.
With a tough run of fixtures coming up, a win would go a long way towards securing our place in the Champions League for next season.
Kick-off in the Vicente Calderón is set for the earlier time of 17:00 CET.
As we’re all well aware, the red and whites have been brought back down to earth recently under Diego Simeone following a rip-roaring 2012.
Despite making the Copa del Rey final, a loss of league form coupled with an early Europa League exit has made the end of the season feel like something of an anti-climax, with our small squad being stretched to the limit.
Back in December many were dreaming of a title challenge, but now we may be lucky to re-take 2nd spot from Real Madrid. With our city rivals the next visitors to the Calderón in a fortnights time, we can’t afford a slip up here if we are to compete with them.
Granada travel to the capital short on confidence too, currently on a 7 match winless streak, most notably last Friday’s humiliating 5-1 home defeat at the hands of Betis.
Atleti, on the other hand, have a point to prove. The goals having dried up a bit recently, only Diego Costa, Falcao and Cristian Rodríguez have managed to find the net in our last 15 matches, so Simeone will be hoping for a big win to get the confidence flowing again.
In his press conference, the Argentine also made clear of just how big Sunday’s game is, and underlined that nothing other than a win will suffice.
“If we move away from the most important thing, which is to win on Sunday, it will not be good either for the club or for the players or for the fans,” he stressed.
“We have to prepare and play the way we’ve been doing all year. We have to win on Sunday because it is an important match for our future.”
However, the 42 year-old was not keen to dwell on our recent form, and played down suggestions that the team had been struggling.
“The other day I analysed the last seven games. We won three, we drew three and lost one. Not so bad.” he told journalists.
“We are proud and excited by what our players are doing. We’re three points off Real Madrid, who are on the back of reaching the second consecutive Champions League semi-finals, so I think it’s pretty good what we’re doing.”
He will be without a few key players though, Arda Turan and Tiago remain on the injury list, and Mario Suárez, who had been back in the side following the latter’s absence, is suspended for his red card at Getafe last week.
It’s El Día del Niño (Children’s day) in the Calderón though, and it looks as if at least one of our young prodigies will get the chance to shine in their absence.
Some reports suggest that Saúl Ñíguez is the man chosen to partner Gabi in midfield, whereas others say Óliver Torres will be the one given the nod, and there could even possibly be starts for the pair of them.
Javier Manquillo is also in the squad, preferred as a back-up option to fellow Atleti B graduates Jorge Pulido and Domingo Cisma. Also back in contention is Diego Godín, the first of his two yellow cards in the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez rescinded by the RFEF.
Should we get the win we will move level on points with Real momentarily, although they take on Athletic in the late game at San Mamés.
As for Granada, manager Lucas Alcaraz was under no illusions when speaking to the press earlier this week. He made it clear that his team had to step things up and start winning matches if they are to avoid the drop.
“The results have not been good for me or for the players themselves.” he said. “The other day was not good either in terms of the performance or the result. We have to compete and be close to winning games to restore confidence.”
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Asenjo, Courtois
Defenders: Godín, Filipe Luís, Cata Díaz, Juanfran, Insúa, Miranda, Manquillo
Midfielders: Koke, Raúl García, Cristian Rodríguez, Gabi, Saúl, Óliver
Forwards: Adrián, Falcao, Diego Costa