Fresh off their first “defeat” of the season, a draw at Camp Nou with which they lost the Supercopa to Barcelona on away goals, an in-form Atlético square up to Real Sociedad this Sunday at Anoeta.
Proceedings in San Sebastián will get underway at 19:00 CET.
For the Rojiblancos, Sunday’s game provides a good opportunity to prove that they can overcome the bitter taste of a lost final, an experience unknown to the current team, who’ve won the three finals they’ve played in the past two years.
“It’s hard to explain that you didn’t win a cup without losing, but the reality is that our opponent came out the champion,” said Diego Simeone of the Supercopa in his press conference on Friday.
Atlético spared no effort in trying to defeat Barcelona, and Cholo acknowledged that his men’s exertions over the past two weeks have left them a bit fatigued, but stressed that they cannot relent against La Real.
“The important thing is to understand that we’re going to play a strong opponent. We cannot relax. It’s important. To understand that we’re going to play a strong opponent and that they won’t allow us to relax.”
Cholo again has all his players available for selection, except for Demichelis, who has been omitted ahead of his transfer to Manchester City. Youngster Giménez will replace him this weekend, while Atlético wrap up the signing of Toby Alderweireld.
Since their return to La Liga in 2010, La Real have a dismal record against Atleti, particularly at their home ground, where they’ve succumbed to defeat three times in three games.
But the Basques came close to restricting that losing streak to two games in last season’s fixture, managing to keep the game goalless until Falcao scored a match-winning free kick in the 90th minute.
And in their last meeting, at the Vicente Calderón in March, the Txuri-urdin claimed their first victory over the Rojiblancos since 2007, ending Thibaut Courtois’ record 820-minute run without conceding a goal at home in the process.
After finishing fourth last season and securing a place in the Champions League qualifiers, La Real have continued to turn heads with dazzling performances and good results.
Looking ahead to Sunday’s clash, coach Jagoba Arrasate seemed confident his team would not lose at home to the Atléticos yet again.
“We want to win to reach seven points and round off the start of the season. Atlético is the most in-form team of La Liga, and it will require a special effort to beat them. They play with great intensity, but I think we’ve proven at home to be a reliable team.”
He explained that in order to beat the Colchoneros, his team will “have to play with the lines close together and not lose the ball, because they’re dangerous on the counter-attack.”
La Real will be without defenders Carlos Martínez and Daniel Estrada, who haven’t recovered from their respective injuries, but star forwards Vela, Griezman, and Seferović are all fit.
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Aranzubia, Courtois
Defenders: Godín, Filipe Luís, Manquillo, Giménez, Juanfran, Miranda, Insúa
Midfielders: Mario, Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda, Cebolla, Gabi, Óliver
Forwards: Adrián, Villa, Diego Costa, Baptistão
Real Sociedad match selection
Goalkeepers: Bravo, Zubikarai
Defenders: Joseba Zaldua, Ansotegi, Iñigo, Cadamuro, De la Bella
Midfielders: Ros, Markel, Elustondo, Pardo, Zurutuza, Xabi Prieto, Granero
Forwards: Seferović, Vela, Griezmann, Chori Castro
Referee: Miguel Ángel Ayza Gámez