Between the two legs of the Supercopa against Barcelona, Atlético face their Madrid neighbors, Rayo, on Sunday at the Vicente Calderón. Kick-off will be at 19:00 CET.
This fixture, the Rojiblancos’ first home game of La Liga, comes after an impressive away victory over Sevilla last Sunday, and a dominant midweek display against Barça that merited more than a draw.
Atlético will be looking to continue the strong form they’ve shown in those games, with Diego Costa and David Villa hoping to add to their tallies.
Colchonero boss Diego Simeone can again count on a fully fit squad after Diego Costa shook off some muscle soreness. This time, he’s left Cebolla Rodríguez, Óliver, Manquillo and Giménez out of his 18-man selection.
Speaking on Saturday, Cholo didn’t rule out that he would make changes to the lineup that he used both against Barça and Sevilla, and analyzed his upcoming opponent.
“There may be some changes. I told the players clearly at the start of the season not to be surprised if a player goes from being in the stands during one game to being a starter in another.”
“We’ll encounter a very strong, very brave team, with much eagerness to keep the ball. They have a lot of pace on the wings and a midfield with players who play well, so we’ll have to be very attentive and very focused.”
In an opening two weeks that include home and away games against Barcelona, and away games against Sevilla and La Real, a home encounter with Rayo might seem relatively easy.
But when they last met their Madrid neighbors earlier this year at Vallecas, Atlético slumped to a hopeless 2-1 away defeat against a fierce opponent.
And in this corresponding fixture last season, they almost saw victory slip from their grasp after the Vallecanos mounted a comeback that just fell short at 4-3.
In both of those games, a certain young Brazilian forward managed to score against Atlético, who took note of his exploits and snapped him up this summer. His name is, of course, Léo Baptistão.
Asked about his feelings on facing his former team, Léo said: “It will be strange to face Rayo, but I’m looking forward to playing against them, and I will enjoy it. I hope Atleti will come out the winners when the game ends.”
Léo is only one of a host of players who have left Rayo after a successful season in which they finished eighth in La Liga. In fact, a mere five players remain of the side that inflicted defeat on Atleti.
Among their replacements is Saúl Ñíguez, the Rojiblancos’ 18-year-old canterano, who’s spending this season on loan at Vallecas to gain first-team experience.
Saúl, believed to be one of the most talented teenagers coming through in Spain right now, starred in Rayo’s impressive 3-0 victory over newly promoted Elche on Monday.
Speaking earlier this week, Saúl called Sunday’s game “beautiful and special” but “difficult, because Atlético are a great team with great players,” while confirming that he would celebrate if he scored at the Vicente Calderón.
Lining up alongside him could be former Atlético B winger Alberto Perea, one of the goalscorers against Elche, and will be forward Alberto Bueno, who bagged a brace in that game.
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Aranzubia, Courtois
Defenders: Godín, Filipe Luís, Juanfran, Insúa, Miranda, Demichelis
Midfielders: Mario, Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda Turan
Forwards: Adrián, Villa, Diego Costa, Baptistão
Referee: Ignacio Iglesias Villanueva