After nabbing three points on the road midweek, Atlético receive Athletic, as they seek to keep the pressure on leaders Barcelona.
Kick-off at the Vicente Calderón is set for 17:00 CET on Sunday.
Though Atlético weren’t at their best by any measure, they delivered a spirited performance to win at Granada on Wednesday. Two penalties, scored by Diego Costa and David Villa, decided the game.
Right now, the Colchoneros sit five points ahead of third-place Real Madrid, who meet Rayo on Saturday evening, but four behind leaders Barcelona, albeit with a game in hand.
Last season, Atlético crushed Athletic in the corresponding fixture, with then star forward Falcao completing a hat-trick before substitute Tiago added a fourth near the end.
But the last time the two sides encountered each other, in January, the tables were turned, as the Basques put three past Courtois in a comprehensive away defeat for the Madrileños.
Athletic have enjoyed a strong start to the season and currently sit fifth in La Liga. But while their form at home has been very good, los Leones have struggled outside of their new San Mamés.
After defeating Valladolid on the opening day of the season, Athletic lost three away games on the trot, before getting their second away win at Getafe on Monday.
In his comments to the press on Saturday, Diego Simeone made it clear that the Basques are formidable opponents who won’t be easily overcome.
The Argentine admitted that “after the wear and tear” his side suffered at Granada, Sunday’s clash will be “a game with a lot of effort,” stressing the need to respond well physically and tactically in a demanding week.
With a relatively small squad, the Colchoneros owe their success in part to the work of ‘El Profe’ Ortega, whose fitness regimes have kept players in excellent shape as they navigate a packed fixture list.
Cholo was full of praise for his “friend” Ortega. “One of the best things that have happened to me as a manager is having the professionalism of El Profe Ortega to rely on,” he said.
Léo Baptistão returns to the squad after recovering from the ankle sprain he suffered in training two weeks ago, but Arda and Aranzubia continue to struggle with their physical problems.
Mario will miss out as well. The midfielder made a speedy recovery from a knee sprain in September, but he’s experiencing discomfort resulting from that injury again, and will need further tests.
Due to LFP rules, Filipe’s one-match suspension applies to Atlético’s game next week, away at Villarreal, so the Brazilian is available tomorrow against Athletic.
Asked about his injured absentees, Simeone replied: “The important thing is that when they return, they’re well. Time is important to recover well.”
Meanwhile, Iraizoz is likely to return to the Athletic goal in place of Herrerín, who deputised for him midweek, while Toquero will step aside for Aduriz again as the main forward.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Courtois, Bounou
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Alderweireld, Manquillo, Giménez, Juanfran, Insúa, Miranda
Midfielders: Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Cristian Rodríguez, Gabi, Guilavogui, Óliver
Forwards: Adrián, Villa, Diego Costa, Baptistão
Athletic match selection:
Referee: Fernando Teixeira Vitienes