Atlético must pick their heads up following their gut-wrenching defeat at the midweek at the hands of arch-nemeses Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey semifinals.
On Saturday, los Colchoneros travel southeast into Andalusia for a league clash against relegation-threatened Almería, with kick-off at the Estadio de los Juegos Mediterráneos set for 22:00 CET.
In spite of the 3-0 scoreline at the Santiago Bernabéu — their worst defeat of the season — los Rojiblancos have nothing to be ashamed of.
Au contraire mon frères!
Atleti have plenty of reasons to remain upbeat despite their loss on Wednesday.
At the top of the league table for the first time in close to two decades, the weekend may present Diego Simeone’s men with another opportunity to further increase their lead over the pair of longstanding giants in Spain.
Real Madrid face a tough test on Saturday when they host the always pesky Yellow Submarine, while Barcelona must take on Sevilla at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán on Sunday.
The red and white faithful will be minding the scoreboards hoping their club’s direct rivals will let some points slip away.
In his pre-game press conference, Simeone admitted, “It’s normal to be criticised after a loss. We were a team that came into the match during their second cycle of 23 games unbeaten.
“This makes us happy on the one hand, because it means we’ve grown a great deal and, besides that, we have to try to put our best effort in.”
Simeone continued, warning of our opponents’ hunger to reach the safety zone in La Liga:
“I see it the same way I have been throughout the league campaign: it’s one more game. It’s tough because of the necessities of our rivals.”
Koke will sit this encounter out through suspension, while David Villa and Filipe Luís are unavailable because of injury. José Giménez, as usual, wasn’t handed a ticket to Almería per tactical decision.
Surprisingly, Simeone did call up 17-year-old Atlético Juvenil centre-back Lucas, who leap-frogged a whole lot of competition in order to earn the spot.
Because starting goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was experiencing slight discomfort in his back during training — it’s likely the pain was caused by the awkward twisting about during the midweek Madrid Derby as he watched deflections end up sailing into the back of his net — Simeone is bringing Atleti B goalkeeper Bounou along for the voyage.
Back in mid-September at the Vicente Calderón, Atleti put four goals past Almería–courtesy of Villa, Koke, Costa and Raúl García.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Aranzubia, Courtois, Bounou
Defenders: Godín, Alderweireld, Manquillo, Juanfran, Insua, Miranda
Midfielders: Mario, Cebolla, Gabi, Diego, Sosa, Tiago, Raúl, Arda
Forwards: Adrián, Costa