No time to linger over the sweet taste of another derby victory. Only three days after conquering Real Madrid at the Bernabéu, Atlético travel to Portugal to face F.C. Porto on the second match day of the Champions League group stage.
Kick-off at the Estádio do Dragão is set for 20:45 CET this Tuesday.
There’s no stopping the Rojiblanco steamroller right now. Both at home and away, Atlético have been in supreme form, winning all seven games in La Liga and beating Zenit in the Champions League.
This awesome spell could come to an end against bogeymen Porto though, who knocked out the red and whites in the round of 16 in 2008/09 and defeated them twice in the group stage in 2009/10.
“We’re going to face a great team, a group who are very strong at home, and who haven’t lost at home in their last 70 games,” Cholo Simeone said of his upcoming opponent, on Monday evening.
He added: “Porto are a team who play well on the wings and on set pieces. When they play at home, they’re very strong. They’re in this competition every year and they’re used to playing these kinds of games.”
The Rojiblancos played a demanding away game on Saturday, while Porto had their home game a day earlier. However, the Atlético boss said that this disadvantage is “not an excuse” and that his side are “going to prepare the game well to try to achieve the best result.”
With top goalscorer Diego Costa serving the final game of his suspension, Atlético will need David Villa to step up against the Dragões. The No. 9 has had a mixed start to the season.
But Cholo praised his forward for his effort and his ‘liveliness’, assuring that “the goals will come at the important moments, because he’s known for scoring important goals.”
Mario has made a rapid recovery from a sprained right knee, but will miss out on Tuesday’s game, while Godín’s involvement is uncertain after he suffered a slight sprain in his left knee. Courtois will start despite bruising the index finger on his left hand.
Boss Paulo Fonseca saw his Dragões struggle to overcome mid-table Vitória de Guimarães on Friday. His side were unable to break down their opponents, who were well organized in defence, and only won thanks to a questionable penalty.
A week earlier, Porto dropped points for the first time this season with a draw at Estoril. That followed a laboured 1-0 away victory over Austria Wien on the first match day of the Champions League group stage.
Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s game, Fonseca described his upcoming opponents as an “Italian team in the Spanish league”, who “sit deep and break quickly on the counter- attack.”
The Dragões’ boss added that he envisioned “a difficult scenario, with little space” and that his side would have to be “close to perfect” in order to win.
He stressed that they need to have “great balance at all times of the game” and “great patience in [ball] circulation” in order to find spaces and lose possession.
Defender Maicon has returned from injury, while midfielder Herrera has joined the first team again after featuring for Porto B over the weekend. Also, Defour is available again after completing his suspension.
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Aranzubia, Courtois
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Alderweireld, Manquillo, Giménez, Juanfran, Insúa, Miranda
Midfielders: Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda, Cristian Rodríguez, Gabi, Guilavogui, Óliver
Forwards: Villa, Léo Baptistão
Porto match selection
Goalkeepers: Helton, Fabiano
Defenders: Danilo, Maicon, Fucile, Mangala, Alex Sandro, Otamendi
Midfielders: Lucho, Josué, Quintero, Herrera, Fernando, Defour
Forwards: Jackson Martínez, Ghilas, Varela, Licá
Referee: Howard Webb (ENG)