After a long, midweek trip to Zenit, Atlético once again travel east to meet an opponent.
This time, their destination is a little closer to home: Elche.
Kick-off at the Estadio Martínez Valero is set for 16:00 CET this Saturday.
With first place guaranteed, Diego Simeone left several key players in Madrid when he took his team to Russia for the penultimate game of the Champions League group stage.
The side he fielded, featuring Guilavogui in the fold for the first time, delivered an assured performance and almost won; Adrián’s excellent goal was cancelled out by an unfortunate Alderweireld own goal.
Up next for Cholo’s men are Elche, back in the Primera División after a quarter of a century and currently occupying an admirable 10th position in the standings.
Speaking on Friday, the Rojiblanco boss was wary of his opposition and explained why this could be a bad time to face the Franjiverdes at their home.
“Elche are a tough, difficult team, who play well collectively,” he said.
“The wings are working well and they link up well in the final third. They also have players with great touch to play in through balls.”
He continued: “When you play away from home, it’s difficult because of the support of the opposition fans, and in this place even more because they’re coming off a victory over Valencia, a very good team.
“This makes them grow. Consequently, we have to think about our way and hopefully we can play a good game tomorrow.”
Though his men demolished higher-ranked Getafe last weekend, Cholo dismissed the notion of an easy game ahead of the clash at the Martínez Valero.
“I don’t know the word ‘easy’, because the reality of football is fluid. Everything can change in a moment.”
“We live on reality and the reality is that Elche have always been competitive and tactically they’re fluid, because they can accommodate different playing systems well.”
One of Atlético’s defining features is their unrelenting focus, drive and purpose. Asked how his team are able to maintain this, the Argentine offered a familiar reply:
“The best way to remain on course is to believe in what you’re doing. They believe that football is game-by-game, because they assess us at how much we can deliver tomorrow.”
“This way we ensure that we can play the upcoming game. Fantasies, the intangible, can’t be touched; what can be touched are three points.”
Mario remains on the sidelines with a knee injury. Léo Baptistão and Giménez miss out as well with an ankle knock and a light ankle sprain respectively.
Juanfran suffered an infected toenail, but he has been included in the match selection.
Midfielders Gabi, Arda and Raúl García are all on four yellow cards in the current campaign, and will be suspended if they receive another one tomorrow.
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Aranzubia, Courtois
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Alderweireld, Manquillo, Juanfran, Insúa, Miranda
Midfielders: Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda, Cristian Rodríguez, Gabi, Guilavogui, Óliver
Forwards: Adrián, Villa, Diego Costa
Referee: Carlos Delgado Ferreiro