Atlético jump back into the fray of La Liga on Sunday after a two-week break from league play, taking on ninth-place Valencia at the Vicente Calderón.
Diego Simeone’s men will aim to keep their, what many would say are far-fetched, title-hopes alive when the clash against Los Che gets underway at 21:00 CET.
It’s been a while since Atleti have defeated Valencia in league action.
It doesn’t really feel like it given that the men in red and white have had their way with their upcoming foes in European competition in recent years.
Our last win in league play though, was a wacky affair at the Calderón back in February of 2010.
The Valencians will surely come into the match bearing a residual grudge. Despite their recent stretch of mediocrity, Atlético’s opponents will no doubt be looking to prove they’re still among Spain’s elite.
But Miroslav Djukic’s men are contending against a veritable Rojiblanco force.
Atleti come into this encounter unbeaten in their last seven games — including a comfortable triumph over Porto in Champions League play at the midweek — with a perfect record at home and having secured three clean sheets on the trot at ‘Cholo Castle’ in Primera play.
The Valencia boss feels that Sunday’s test will serve as a telling barometer for his squad.
“We would like to see where we stand against one of the best teams in La Liga,” Djukic explained during his pre-game press conference.
“We want to start mounting a comeback in La Liga.”
The Serbian’s counterpart appeared inclined to agree, with ‘Cholo’ stating that “[Valencia] have found more balance and that offers them the possibility to start adding up points.”
Simeone continued: “We expect a team with very good players from the middle of the pitch up to the front; they stretch out the flanks and have a lot of options in the middle.
“When a club have so many good players, we have to keep our focus, because they are evidently dangerous.”
Only midfielders Mario Suárez and Josuha Guilavogui are unavailable to coach Simeone, so veteran Tiago will likely get the nod alongside Gabi.
Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is back from injury and ready to make his return after 34-year-old Dani Aranzubia stepped in for him in consecutive fixtures.
Valencia are expected to have their entire squad at their disposal, with Juan Bernat and Daniel Parejo reportedly having recovered from their respective injuries.
Real Madrid managed to rally from a two-goal deficit away at Osasuna on Saturday but, nonetheless, left two points behind in Pamplona in the 2-2 draw.
The Merengues’ mishap will allow us to expand our lead over our eternal rivals to five points with a victory against Valencia.
Unfortunately, league-leaders Barcelona bested Villarreal at the Camp Nou by the narrow scoreline of 2-1, so Atleti need three points to stay in the race with the Blaugrana.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Aranzubia, Courtois, Bounou
Defenders: Godín, Filipe Luís, Alderweireld, Manquillo, Juanfran, Insúa, Miranda
Midfielders: Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda, Cebolla, Gabi, Óliver
Forwards: Adrián, Villa, Costa