Atlético Madrid play their final match of the UEFA Champions League group stages on Wednesday evening, having already secured top spot back in early November.
Visitors to the Vicente Calderón are FC Porto, who need to take all three points to stand any chance of following the Rojiblancos into the knock-out phase.
Kick-off is set for 20:45 CET.
Nearly five years ago now, on the back of a bitter dispute following the controversial transfer of Paulo Assunção the previous summer, Porto ended Atlético’s first Champions League campaign in 12 years in cruel fashion as Abel Resino’s side were dumped out of the last 16 on away goals.
The following season, a chance for revenge prevented itself, but the Dragon’s were far too strong for an Atleti side in total disarray, winning twice and emphatically hitting three without reply on the final matchday in Madrid, in what would be our last game in the competition until just three months back.
Now, upon further hostility between the two sides driven by Radamel Falcao’s ‘laughable’ move to the Spanish capital, Diego Simeone and his team can send tomorrow’s opponents out of the competition, and complete a double over their Iberian counterparts after winning the reverse fixture on matchday 2.
However, the Argentine boss is again using this game to rest some of his regular players, and give chances to the members of the squad who may not have quite gotten the minutes they deserve so far this season.
Injuries are starting to become a slight concern too, with Thibaut Courtois, Cristian Rodríguez and Josuha Guilavogui all picking up knocks in training this week.
Mario Suárez remains sidelined, and will be joined in the stands by Tiago and Filipe Luís, both given the night off after starting Saturday’s 4-0 cup win against Sant Andreu. Juanfran also misses out through suspension.
The rest of the first team are called-up, although teenage duo David Gil and Lucas Hernández from Atleti B and Juvenil A are drafted in to make up the numbers.
When speaking to press, Simeone gave little away but insisted that his team will be fully committed to the win as usual.
“We have the same opportunities against all rivals we face – whoever plays best will win.” he said. “Porto are a strong team with great players like Jackson Martinez, someone who is growing year after year.”
“The Champions League is a nice competition. It’s a new experience, much more competitive than La Liga,”
“Here, the winning teams have changed and and it is not just the same two as in Spain. This competition is not boring.” he finished.
Porto on the other hand have gone full strength, desperate to avoid falling at the group stage for the first time in eight years.
Manager Paulo Fonseca has come under pressure from their continental performance in particular, although they are also trailing surprise package Sporting CP domestically, currently joint second-place with Benfica in the Liga ZON Sagres.
Colombian star Jackson was at the double to secure a much-needed win over Braga on Saturday, and Fonseca is hoping it was the spur his side needed to help see them through to the next round in Europe.
“Atlético are very strong, even more so than when we played them in October, but I’m certain we can win,” he said.
“We will see what happens with Zenit’s match – we can’t do anything about that – but it is not worth thinking about their game if we can’t win ours”
“A team like Porto has once choice only, and that is to win.”
On Sunday, La Liga action returns as Atleti host Valencia in the second of four successive games in the Calderón. The draw for the next round of the Champions League will take place the following day in Nyon.
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Aranzubia, David Gil
Defenders: Godín, Alderweireld, Manquillo, Giménez, Insúa, Miranda, Lucas
Midfielders: Koke, Raúl García, Arda, Gabi, Óliver
Forwards: Adrián, Villa, Diego Costa, Léo Baptistão