January is Copa del Rey month in Spain, and holders Atlético get the action underway on Tuesday with the first leg of their last 16 tie against a rejuvenated Valencia.
Last month’s 3-0 league triumph over Los Che resulted in the dismissal of manager Miroslav Djukic, and it has been all change at the Mestalla since then.
Kick-off is set for 22:00 CET.
The red and whites kicked off 2014 in the best possible way at Málaga last weekend, winning 1-0 courtesy of Koke’s second half goal, keeping the pressure on Barcelona ahead of their crunch visit to the Calderón on Saturday.
Now though, attention turns to the Copa del Rey, and despite competing strongly both for La Liga and the Champions League, the team will not be taking the competition they won in such superb fashion last season at all lightly.
Having defeated Sant Andreu in the last round, a tougher task now awaits with Valencia the opposition in the last 16, now under the management of another of their former players, Juan Antonio Pizzi.
Although a former Spanish International, Pizzi hails from Argentina and would love nothing more than getting one over Simeone in his second match in charge, the first a solid 2-0 derby win against Levante on Saturday.
For Cholo though, the arrival of his compatriot at the Europa League side is seen as another challenge, with the Atleti boss admitting he was “excited and motivated” to take on the former San Lorenzo manager for the first time.
“I’ve seen Pizzi in Argentina and get the feeling he is a brave coach,” he said.
“He comes as a league champion there which is a great achievement, the competition is very tough. I wish him well as a colleague and an Argentine.”
Simeone also dismissed any suggestions that the cup was not a priority this year, naming the strongest squad possible for the trip.
“The cup is very important – not only are we defending it, but is a historic tournament and very important for this club.” said the 43 year-old.
“Valencia have a great team with great players. They will make it very tough, but we will go with the XI we think can help us go ahead in the tie.”
At this crucial stage in the season, only Mario Suárez is injured, although the Spanish international midfielder is back in training and close to a comeback. New signing José Sosa also misses out, still adapting to his new team and being brought up to full fitness.
José Giménez, Óliver Torres, Léo Baptistão and Emiliano Insúa are the other absentees, all due to technical decision.
As for Valencia, much has been made lately of rumours they are set for a multi-million euro takeover from Singaporean businessman Peter Lim, who expressed an interest in buying Atleti last year.
That has yet to fully materialise though, and whether it does in time to significantly reinforce during the January transfer window could be crucial for their season and where they finish.
Pizzi will be without star attacker Jonas due to suspension, and one-time rojiblanco Éver Banega has also been ruled out through injury. Elsewhere they are at full strength, with the exception of new signing Ruben Vezo.
After the match, preparation will begin for Barcelona at the weekend, before the return leg next Tuesday in the capital. Whoever makes it through will take on either Real Betis or Athletic Bilbao in the quarter finals.
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Aranzubia, Courtois
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Alderweireld, Manquillo, Juanfran, Miranda
Midfielders: Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda, Cristian Rodríguez, Gabi, Guilavogui
Forwards: Adrián, Villa, Diego Costa