The Vicente Calderón will see it’s last action of the 2012-13 season as Atleti host Mallorca on Sunday, but will also welcome home this year’s Copa del Rey champions for the first time after last Friday’s heroic exploits in the Bernabéu.
Rojiblancos around the world have been basking in the glory of our long-awaited defeat of Real Madrid for over a week now, and after a trip to Singapore, the team are ready to return to action.
Kick-off in the Spanish capital is set for 20:00 CET.
It’s being labelled the fiesta – as if our fifth piece of silverware in three years hasn’t been celebrated enough already – and former Atleti boss Gregorio Manzano will greet his old side on to the pitch with a guard of honour alongside his struggling team tomorrow night.
However, for our opponents it could be a goodbye as well, and Mallorca know that a defeat will see them relegated after 16 straight seasons in the top flight.
Fans’ calls to see some of the fringe players given starts may be answered, but those expecting an easy encounter to close out our home campaign will probably be disappointed, as the Islanders only have one option: to fight.
We hate to mention it, but it may also be a goodbye to star striker Radamel Falcao, with rumours intensifying rapidly regarding his future at the club, and a move to newly-promoted French side AS Monaco seemingly set.
There is still time for the Calderón to roar again though, and the Colombian hit-man is one of 23 players called up for the match.
Like in the final, all first team players are called upon by Simeone, and the Argentine has also drafted in teenage stars Javier Manquillo, Óliver Torres and Saúl Ñíguez from the B-team.
As of yet there is no word as to what exactly their involvement in the match will be, but the feeling is that this is the perfect time to blood them, now that all the hard work is done.
In his press conference, ‘Cholo’ was joined by his entire coaching staff to honour a fabulous first full season in charge, and seemed in a rare relaxed mood.
“This year has been a 10/10,” he proudly affirmed.
“It’s been a very good season, we managed to stay close to Barcelona in the title race until February, and got to the final of the Copa del Rey by winning big games.”
On the subject of the match, the Argentine coach spared no sympathy for his ex-manager and predecessor, making clear that his team are only out for the three points.
“The stadium is going to be full. We hope that the fans can get down to the stadium and be with the team. We want to win,” he said.
Manzano, on the other hand, played down the possibility of the home side lying down, admitting that he expects the same intensity from Atleti that has been seen in pretty much every match since his departure last season.
“When the game starts, it will be another game in which Atlético will want to play well and win the game, just like us. They won’t play half-heartedly,” he told the press.
“We have to keep working in the same way, now that we are closer to success than failure. We have to do our job, and we are obliged to win.”
The 57-year-old tactician is unlikely to be welcomed back by the Rojiblanco faithful, although one man who would’ve certainly been well received is left-back Antonio López, now at Mallorca, following more than a decade at the Calderón.
Injury deprives our former captain of a return, whereas Javier Arizmendi, another ex-canterano and player of ours, is suspended for the match. Calatayud, Anderson and Kevin also stay in Mallorca, missing out through technical decision.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Courtois, Asenjo
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Pulido, Cisma, Cata Díaz, Juanfran, Insúa, Miranda, Manquillo
Midfielders: Mario, Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda, Cristian Rodríguez, Gabi, Saúl, Óliver
Forwards: Adrián, Falcao, Diego Costa