It’s back to Galicia on Wednesday night for Atlético Madrid, as the red and whites look to seal third place at struggling Celta Vigo.
Saturday’s goalless draw at Depor secured our return to the Champions League, but we can reserve our spot in the group stages with three points in Los Balaídos.
Kick-off is set for 19:30 CET.
It’s been a tough few weeks for Atleti, but tomorrow night’s clash could be the last league match with real significance this season, and in perfect time for next week’s Copa del Rey final.
For once, Diego Simeone has the whole squad at his disposal too, with Arda Turan, not quite fully fit just yet following his return from injury, the only slight concern.
Celta on the other hand are playing for survival, and after salvaging a late point at home to Athletic on Saturday, they will be looking to go one better against the Europa League champions.
Back in December they came close to snatching a point in the Calderón, but the game was settled late on as Adrián came off the bench to volley home the winner.
Reports suggest that the ex-Deportivo forward will be a starter for this game though, on the back of an encouraging display against his former side at the weekend.
Koke and Diego Costa are set to come back into the side after serving suspension, replacing Raúl García and Cristian Rodríguez in what is expected to be the only changes from team that started in the Riazor.
Also keeping his place in the squad is Óliver Torres, although fellow canterano Saúl Ñíguez drops out, and will stay in Madrid along with defenders Jorge Pulido and Domingo Cisma.
In his press conference, Simeone seemed keen to seal third place, preferring as usual to focus on the Celta game and not upcoming clashes with Barcelona and Real Madrid.
“We have 69 points so far and do not want to give anything to anyone,” he said. “Tomorrow we have a tough match, which gives us the possibility to go straight into the Champions League next year and not have to do the qualifying rounds.”
“The players so far have had an amazing season.”
The Argentine head coach also spoke about the fitness of Arda, with the Turk re-appearing after five weeks in Saturday’s draw.
“Arda is improving, we’re looking to bring him back the best way possible so that he can provide what he has contributed to the games he has played, to the coming games,” he said.
“We’ll see tomorrow if he is ready for some more time and, consequently, take things slowly leading to up to the final.”
As for our opponents, they are now under the leadership of a familiar face, former Atleti goalkeeper and manager Abel Resino having taken over from Paco Herrera back in February.
The 53 year-old, who’s historic record for minutes without conceding a goal at home was beaten by Thibaut Courtois recently, has also been speaking ahead of the game, and predicted a difficult encounter for his team.
“This is the best Atlético I have seen for 20 years,” he told press. “The defence especially is very strong, even better than the one from the double season, as I don’t remember them being as compact as this.”
“I have great memories there but my focus is on Celta. It will be a tough, intense game, so we will have to be fully prepared and competitive.”
Abel named a 19-man squad on Tuesday, leaving out Vadim Demidov, Samuel Llorca, Daniel Pranjić and Park Chu-Young for technical reasons. However, he is boosted by the returns of Roberto Lago and Natxo Insa, both back from suspension.
Upon return to the capital, the Rojiblancos will begin preparation for the visit of Barcelona on Sunday, although just how seriously that game is taken will most likely depend on events in Vigo.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Courtois, Asenjo
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Cata Díaz, Juanfran, Insúa, Miranda
Midfielders: Mario, Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda, C. Rodríguez, Gabi, Óliver
Forwards: Adrián, Falcao, Diego Costa