Having lost for the first time this season away at Espanyol a few days back, Atlético Madrid will be looking to pick themselves up on Tuesday in a Champions League clash against Austria Vienna.
Three points in the Ernst Happel Stadium would put one foot into the next round for the red and whites, although as we learned at the weekend, nothing can be taken for granted.
Kick-off is scheduled for 20:45 CET.
With Barcelona dropping points at Osasuna earlier on Saturday, the stage was all set for Atlético to move top of the league and equal Real Madrid’s long standing record of being the only team in history to win their opening nine La Liga matches.
It wasn’t to be though, a rare Thibaut Courtois mistake our undoing in a game that was settled by an unfortunate own goal from the Belgian.
However, the last thing Simeone will want is his team to dwell on the defeat, and he, more than anybody, will be trying to make sure they come out fighting on Tuesday and prove that the loss in the Cornella-El Prat was nothing more than a minor blip.
So far in the Champions League his team have impressed, picking up maximum points so far in Group G with hard-fought wins against Zenit St. Petersburg and most notably FC Porto, both without star man Diego Costa due to suspension.
It seems we will be without the Brazilian-born hitman yet again in Vienna though, despite the 25-year-old having served his four-match ban for a rash headbutt in the Europa League last season.
Costa has travelled with the team to the Austrian capital but has been walking on crutches ever since the Espanyol game, with his manager conceding in his press conference that he is highly doubtful to suit up.
“We’ll assess him again tomorrow, but at the moment it is difficult to see him playing,” said Simeone. “There is a lot of time between now and tomorrow though, so we’ll see how he responds.”
The Argentine tactician also had words about his other starting striker, David Villa, who’s run of seven matches without a goal has caused some concern among fans.
“Villa has lived his whole life scoring goals, it’s what he does. We are confident he will appear when we need him most,” he said.
Playing in the Ernst Happel will bring back mixed memories for El Guaje, having missed out on playing the Euro 2008 final there for Spain due to injury.
Former Rojiblanco idol Fernando Torres scored the winner in a famous win over Germany, but Villa’s tournament was cut short in the same stadium as he took a knock in the semi-final.
Austria Vienna don’t normally play in the 50,000 seater venue, but as their regular home does not meet UEFA standards, they are required to host European matches in the national arena instead.
Despite qualifying for this year’s Champions League for the first time in their history last year, they have not been in great form as of late and sit mid-table in their domestic league, having won just one of their last ten.
They are yet to score in their two group games so far, but did manage a goalless draw away in difficult conditions at Zenit in the last match day. They also overcame Dinamo Zagreb to qualify, winning 2-0 in the first leg in Croatia.
Manager Nenad Bjeliça was particularly complimentary towards Atlético in his press conference on Monday, in particular when speaking about his opposite number.
“Simeone is one of the best managers in the world,” he said. “He has won more titles than any other coach in the past few years, and with a squad that cannot compare with teams like Real Madrid or Barcelona.”
“It will be a tough game but we have shown that we can compete with anybody, we have belief. Atlético’s players are only footballers like us, maybe with a little more quality, but with effort you can compensate.”
Die Veilchen will be without star winger Alexander Gorgon who picked up a serious injury in their draw at the weekend. Alexander Grünwald is also out, although they are expected to have Marko Stanković and Tomás Jun available again.
For the visitors, B-team goalkeeper David Gil has entered the squad list and will line-up on the bench ahead of the injured Dani Aranzubia. Brazilian striker Léo Baptistão is the only other certain absentee.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Courtois, David Gil
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Alderweireld, Manquillo, Giménez, Juanfran, Insúa, Miranda
Midfielders: Mario, Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda, Cristian Rodríguez, Gabi, Guilavogui, Óliver
Forwards: Adrián, David Villa, Diego Costa