On the back of two fiercely contested draws, Atlético Madrid will be looking to get back to winning ways against Valencia on Tuesday and progress to the Copa del Rey quarter finals.
Last week, Diego Simeone’s side were denied a win at the Mestalla by Helder Postiga’s last gasp equalising header, but are still strong favourites to make it through having gotten the all-important away goal.
Kick-off in the Vicente Calderón is scheduled for 21:30 CET.
The red and whites were given a tough test a week ago against Valencia, now under the management of Argentine boss Juan Antonio Pizzi, in a game dominated by the home side.
Truth be told, los Che had enough chances to win the match in the last 10 minutes alone, but could not take advantage as Atleti did what they do so often, snatching a vital goal against the run of play through Raúl García.
However, striking late on should give them a much needed confidence boost ahead of the return leg, despite slumping to a 2-1 defeat at lowly Celta Vigo this past weekend.
Simeone is playing his cards close to his chest in terms of team selection following Saturday’s stalemate with Barcelona, opting to call all 22 available first team players to the matchday squad. Mario Suárez, not seen since October, is his only absentee.
In the first leg he mixed and matched, and the suggestions are he may do something similar this Tuesday. New signing José Sosa is expected to debut, and Raúl García may also take the place of David Villa in attack according to MARCA.
The 43 year-old coach remained diplomatic as ever in his pre-match press conference, but did address the issue of fatigue his team will face competing in three separate competitions.
“The cup is a competition that has given us much joy, we will give it our full respect,” he insisted.
“Valencia come with a clear intention, to score. I imagine them playing like they did towards the end of the game last week, their last minutes were very good.”
“We are used to playing every 3 or 4 days, but it’s true in football that tiredness exists. The physios are working hard to overcome this, as we need everyone in their best shape.” he said.
“We hope to play a good game.”
The visitors have also bought a strong contingent to the capital, but will again miss top scorer Jonas through suspension. Víctor Ruiz misses out through injury, whereas Andrés Guardado, instrumental in their equalising goal in the Mestalla, is left out for technical reasons.
Centre-backs Jérémy Mathieu and Ricardo Costa, the club’s highest earner according to documents leaked last week, have doubts surrounding their fitness, but both have made the trip.
Fans were given a reality check on Saturday when they went down to Celta, but the changes in their work-rate and intensity have been clear since Pizzi’s arrival.
The former Spanish international told press his new charges would have to play to their maximum to make it through, but remained optimistic of their chances.
“We need to be play to our best – as a team and as footballers.” he said.
“The players are the interpreters of our ideas. They are the ones who make the genuine effort. We’ll be trying to play to our absolute limits, so that Valencia can progress in the Copa del Rey.”
“The team has shown consistency, despite some individual errors. We have to ensure that everyone is focused. We have to pay close attention to the second half in Vigo, because we moved away from what we had been doing.”
For those wondering; yes, he is the inspiration behind the name of the man we *paid* €15m for last year.
On Sunday, another familiar foe visit the Calderón as the second half of the season gets underway, Atleti taking on Sevilla. Should we make it through tomorrow, Betis or Athletic will await in the cup quarter-finals a few days later.
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Aranzubia, Courtois
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Alderweireld, Manquillo, Giménez, Juanfran, Insúa, Miranda
Midfielders: Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda, Cristian Rodríguez, Gabi, Guilavogui, Óliver, Sosa
Forwards: Adrián, Villa, Diego Costa