Champions League preview: Zenit vs. Atlético

Red and whites send back-ups for Champions League test against Zenit

Atleti comfortably beat Zenit at home in September  (

Atleti comfortably beat Zenit at home in September

Atlético are preparing for their fifth Champions League match of the season, away to Zenit St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

The club are already safe in the knowledge that their place in the knock-out stages is assured.

Parallel to their league form, the Rojiblancos have blitzed the competition so far in Europe, so much so that they can afford to send a significantly weakened squad to Russia for their penultimate group stage encounter.

Kick-off in the Petrovsky is set for the early time of 18:00 CET.

Three weeks ago, after Zenit and Porto played out a 1-1 draw, Atleti had the chance to become the first group winners of this year’s tournament, and did so in style–thrashing Austria Vienna 4-0 in the Spanish capital.

Now, with two games remaining and nothing to play for (other than keeping form going), some of the fringe players will get a chance to prove their worth on the big stage.

Simeone has allowed the likes of David Villa, Diego Costa, Tiago, Filipe Luís, Diego Godín and Arda Turan a deserved rest for the trip, meaning they should be fighting fit and raring to go when we visit Elche at the weekend.

Mario Suárez misses out once again through injury, although there is a welcome return for Léo Baptistão. Cristian Rodríguez has also jetted in to join the squad following the birth of a baby girl.

Teenage defenders Javi Manquillo and José María Giménez come in and could be in line for a starting role in St Petersburg, with fellow youngsters Lucas Hernández, Momar Ndoye and Alex Díaz drafted in to make up the numbers.

On Saturday, Cholo’s men hit local rivals Getafe for seven, but the Argentine boss refused to get carried away and insisted that his only focus at the moment is the game on Tuesday. We expected nothing less.

“My only focus is the match against Zenit,” he told press. “I expect a difficult game for both teams.”

The 43 year-old addressed questions about his team selection as well as the sub-zero temperature his team will have to play in, not seeming particularly concerned by either.

“It does not matter if we have gone through or not, nor the way we’ve played before,” he said. “We always believe in playing the best team that can compete. I remember back in the Europa League in Israel giving a chance to one Diego Costa. Now we see what a player he is.”

“How will we deal with the cold temperatures? We will have to run, that is the best way not to feel the cold.”

Zenit currently sit narrowly top of the Russian league, leading Lokomotiv Moscow on the virtue of having scored more goals. However, they have not been in form lately, and are on a run of five winless matches going into the clash.

However, they still have a very good chance of qualifying should they win, so should be extra motivated. A late Kerzhakov header last month saw them beat nearest challengers FC Porto, meaning it is they who have the head-to-head advantage.

Manager Luciano Spalletti confirmed in his pre-match press conference that they will be without top scorer Danny, as well as Argentine defender Cristian Ansaldi. There are also doubts surrounding fellow full-back Aleksandr Anyukov and goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev.

“We have a lot of important absences, Atlético have left important players in Madrid but our situation is comparable, I don’t see any advantage.” said Spalletti.

“We’re going to use four defenders, we’re not going to use five defenders simply because we don’t have five defenders available for the match.”

Atlético match selection:

Goalkeepers: Courtois, Aranzubia
Defenders: Alderweireld, Manquillo, Giménez, Juanfran, Insúa, Miranda, Lucas
Midfielders: Koke, Raúl García, Cristian Rodríguez, Gabi, Guilavogui, Óliver, Alex Díaz
Forwards: Adrián, Léo Baptistão, Ndoye

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    Juanfran – Miranda – Alderweireld – Insua
    Gabi – Guilavogui
    Koke – Oliver – Raul Garcia

    I think those will be the starting XI,
    unless Simeone thinks that Cebolla needs to have some minutes more than Oliver does, which is not true
    Cebolla is 28, so he has been playing for at least 10 years, and he plays regularly with Uruguay even that he doesn’t play a lot with Atleti, but Oliver doesn’t play for Atleti B any more, and doesn’t have many minutes with Atleti
    Cebolla could leave this winter, or the summer or the summer after that, but Oliver is our future
    I really wish to see Oliver starts today

    also I would love to see Manquillo, but I don’t think El Cholo will change the both fullbacks in one game,
    beside the fact that Juanfran has 2 yellow cards in the competition and I believe he should get the 3rd one today so that he serves his suspension against Porto and goes to the round of 16th booking-free

    but if he is going to do that he should do it casually .. not in that stupid and obvious way that Real Madrid players used to do in Mourinho’s era and got them many problems with UEFA !!

  • pantic#10

    i think that will be the starting 11 too.
    but with Cebolla as a starter.

    Hope to see good things on the right wing with Juanfran/Adrian

  • Atletico9

    agree with the line up. but I think RG8 is on the top.

    I really love to see Giménez instead of Miranda. Miranda is so fucking brilliant and he need to rest. He is so important to our team.

    Hope that Leo also can have some minuts tonight. And Adrian should score again 🙂 and finally im excitied to see Guilavogui.

    Zenit 0-1 Atletico

  • Will

    Some news in Brazil are reporting that Arsenal and Southampton are considering Diego Ribas for the next transfer window. Diego said Arsenal would be perfect for his style of play but made it clear there’s nothing official.

  • Pantic#10

    Youth league.
    Zenit 3 – Atleti 4

  • pantic#10

    These are the 11:
    Juanfran – Miranda – Toby – Insua
    Joshua – Gabi
    Cebolla – Koke – Adrian

    kinda of 4 – 2 – 3 – 1 in my opinion.

    Guillavogui / Gabi can be a terrific duo, steal balls and counter-attack with Cebolla and Adrian super fast on the wings, with RG8 and his powerful header 🙂

    very interesting, can’t wait to see the match.

  • Jeronamo

    And once again no start for Oli hmmm

  • pantic#10

    great save by Thibaut on Hulk!

  • pantic#10

    adrian on the lest and Cebolla on the right mmmhhh

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    yellow card for Juanfran
    that’s what I was talking about .. and that is what I think is the reason why he is playing tonight and not sitting in Madrid with the other 6

  • Jeronamo

    Joshua looks pretty comfortable an is playing well for his first start

  • pantic#10

    good first half, Koke almost scored with a superb volley shot

  • pantic#10

    see? great assist by RG8 and Adrian speedy run 😉

  • pantic#10

    crossbar by RG8 with a fantastic shot! what a player!

  • Will

    As El Cholo said: “Do not underestimate those will play”. Man, Simeone is impressive…

  • Jeronamo

    If this doesn’t stake a claim for Joshua to start i don’t know what will

  • Will

    Agree.. Simeone has that problem all the coaches enjoy: Gabi, Mario, Tiago and Joshua for 2 positions.

    Joshua is strong has good passing, just like Yaya Touré.

  • Jeronamo

    own goal b toby tough luck

  • Will

    Bad move by Courtois… it’s ok, he has some credit.

  • pantic#10

    Breaking News!!!
    Courtois made a mistake!!! 1-1
    c’mon Thibaut …it happens don’t worry

  • Jeronamo

    Ummm subs anyone?

  • Jeronamo

    Ahhhh there we go

  • Jeronamo

    OMG did you guys see that pass????

  • Will

    What a pass by Oliver (redundant, I know!). RG8 is making good moves but didn’t get a goal until now.. bad lucky.

  • pantic#10

    too bad for that mistake, we could have won…anyway very good performance by all the guys. (especially the subs like Guillavogui, Toby….)
    Oliver showed some tricks.

  • Will

    It was good to see Adrián playing well again and enjoying. I feel fine for him.. I really the guy.

  • Jeronamo

    -__- Gabi….. Anyways, on to the next one

  • Zakaria

    The team was just amazing, very confident and played really well. We should have won, grt match, grt players, grt coach … Aupa Atleti

  • Adnan Khan

    -I didnt like the ambitious long shooting the guys were doing…
    -guilagigigigig played well. I am quite impressed
    -i didnt feel good when the commentator mentioned oli torres beeing a barca fan.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    many people criticized Atleti for resting their starters saying that it’s not fair play

    well, we were more dangerous and almost won
    is that fair enough for you ?!