2014 gets set in motion for Atlético on Saturday, when the joint league-leaders visit Málaga at La Rosaleda.
The clash, which takes place at the site where it all began for Diego Simeone, gets underway at 16:00 CET.
With a record setting 2013 already in the rear-view mirror, Atleti will look to maintain their bid for the league title by going after all three points against the Anchovies.
After two years of quips regarding the nature of La Liga, repeatedly describing the Spanish domestic competition as “boring”, the New Year has brought with it a slight change in Simeone’s tone.
“The word ‘boring’ was a mistake at the time, but I do consider that the league doesn’t give you a chance,” the Rojiblanco boss, who has more league wins than any other La Liga manager since his arrival (48), said.
“The problem isn’t the duration of the competition, rather, it’s the inequality of financial possibilities.”
‘El Cholo’ continued: “When the fans see Atlético fighting, they see themselves reflected in that effort and they feel close to the team because we must work for everything. We don’t have the same chances as others do.
“Hopefully, someone comes up with a brilliant and good idea so that we can all become more competitive, which is what all the fans want.”
The 43-year-old admitted that he and his men are “very excited” to get the ball rolling again.
“When the game gets closer, the level of competition increases,” he said.
“I hope to arrive to this tough match versus Málaga with hope and commitment.”
With a massive game looming around the corner — Barcelona visit the Vicente Calderón in just seven days — Simeone emphasised the importance of his approach to the season.
“The match-by-match [mentality] is the day-to-day of anyone’s life,” he said.
“A lot of people in society have to fight to make it each day. We can’t forget about this because we will be left with very little possibilities. We’re obligated to continue on this line, because we know what are virtues and are defects are.”
Atleti’s particular defects for this encounter are a pair of key absences–Gabi’s and Raúl García’s through suspension.
Mario Suárez remains unavailable because of injury, while José Giménez and Léo Baptistão were left off the match selection through tactical decision.
Cholo has left the door open for Léo, who will very likely be loaned out soon–especially given the very recent signing of loanee José Sosa.
Simeone’s countryman was immediately selected for this game, an unusual decision for the Argentine tactician.
“We had said it before, with the possibility of an arrival, there could be an exit,” Cholo explained.
“José’s [signing] makes me very happy. He’s a player that I always wanted to coach again since I had him at Estudiantes.”
There’s a strong possibility, given Simeone’s line-ups in training, that young starlet Óliver will appear in the fold, while Koke may feature in a more defensive role in place of Gabi.
Málaga coach Bernd Schuster, a former Rojiblanco, made some controversial remarks ahead of this match.
The German alleged that Sosa had promised to leave Metalist for his squad, and charged him with being a man whose word “means nothing”.
Schuster’s men, who sit in 10th in the league table, are coming off back-to-back wins to finish the year.
Defensive midfielder Fernando Tissone is suspended for this game, but Eliseu returns from a one-match ban.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Courtois, Aranzubia
Defenders: Godín, Filipe Luís, Alderweireld, Manquillo, Juanfran, Insúa, Miranda
Midfielders: Tiago, Koke, Arda, Cebolla, Guilavogui, Óliver, Sosa
Forwards: Adrián, Villa, Costa