Atlético will look to cast away the dreadful memories of the past week when they welcome Valladolid to the Vicente Calderón on Saturday.
Proceedings get underway at 16:00 CET, and fans are welcome to attend in spite of the Cristiano lighter incident at the midweek.
Spanish football’s Competition Committee fined Atleti 600 euros for the crime. There are perhaps a couple of you Colchoneros out there that would probably pay double for the privilege.
Oh relax! We kid, we kid. We do not condone what took place, but you must forgive us for laughing. Sergio Ramos did, too!
Back to the match at hand.
Valladolid are on red alert–sitting at the top of the drop zone in 18th place and with only one win on the road this season. The Pucela’s lone away victory came from their visit to Vallecas way back in October.
Los Rojiblancos, meanwhile, are currently level in points at the top of the Primera División table with Real Madrid and Barcelona–goal differential the key figure that separates the three top clubs in Spain.
Good news right?
Well…a slew of injuries, fierce competition, refereeing controversies and, frankly, poor play, see los Rojiblancos stuck smack dab in the middle of their worst streak since Diego Simeone’s arrival over two years ago.
So, while our opponents are struggling and sit way down low on the Primera totem pole, they come into this clash unbeaten, while our men in red and white enter it without a win in three–in fact, without a goal in three.
Simeone, speaking to reporters during his pre-game press conference on Friday, made it clear that, “In these times, we are absolutely focussed on the match against Valladolid. We have to play a good match and do well.”
The Argentine tactician then addressed club top scorer Diego Costa’s limited opportunities in recent matches.
“I think our opponents have marked him really well,” he said.
“It’s been credit to the opposing defenders, especially how they’ve managed the games. It’s true that in neither of these two matches he’s had chances to score. We’re working to address that so the team can improve their possibilities of creating goal scoring situations for a player as important as Diego Costa.”
With regard to suggestions that playmaker Diego’s arrival perhaps altered the squad’s winning formula too much, ‘El Cholo’ said:
“If you recall, the way we played with Diego when we got here was that Diego would line up on the right, Mario, Gabi or Tiago alternating, Arda on the left and Adrián and Falcao up top.
“At that time, we worked really well and few goals were scored against us when we’d maintain our lines tightly as we do now, and I don’t see why we’d have to look for another solution.”
He continued: “Yes, it’s true that a year and a half that he hasn’t been here with us is a long time. Obviously, his arrival to the club and the matches have left us with little time to work on certain things. The quicker he remembers them, the better it will be for the team, because he’s going to give us a considerable boost in quality.”
Filipe Luís, José Giménez, Tiago and Javi Manquillo will all continue to be sidelined and will miss out of this fixture; the latter two still have over a month to go in their recoveries.
Arda, David Villa and Thibaut Courtois are all back in the squad though, which will provide Atleti with a tremendous shot in the arm for this game.
Koke also returns having served a one-match ban from league action last weekend, as does Costa, who sat out against Real on Tuesday while serving his suspension from Copa del Rey play.
The Rojiblanco faithful will likely be hoping to see good ole Dani Aranzubía between the sticks once again.
LOL! Dear lord no.
Welcome back Thibaut!
‘Cholo’ fielded the following XI — widely expected to be the same crop of men to line-up at the start on Saturday — during Friday’s training session: Courtois, Juanfran, Godín, Alderweireld, Insúa; Gabi, Mario Suárez, Koke, Arda; Raúl García and Diego Costa.
Atleti shutout Valladolid 2-0 at the Estadio José Zorrilla the first time these two sides squared off in the present campaign back in September.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Aranzubía, Courtois
Defenders: Godín, Alderweireld, Juanfran, Insua, Miranda
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Koke, Raúl García, Arda, Cebolla, Gabi, Sosa, Diego
Forwards: Adrián, Villa, Costa
Valladolid match selection:
Goalkeepers: Mariño, Jaime
Defenders: Rukavina, Peña, Begdich, Valiente, Mitrovic
Midfielders: Sastre, Rubio, Rossi, Victor Pérez, Baraja, Omar, Valdet Rama
Forwards: Larsson, Osorio, Javi Guerra, Manucho
Referee: Eduardo Prieto Iglesias