Atlético are the last of La Liga’s ‘Big Three’ to go into battle this round, with proceedings away at Osasuna set to get underway at 21:00 CET on Sunday.
Atleti are unbeaten in eight consecutive encounters against los Rojillos, and have won three straight at El Sadar.
Diego Costa, who typically lurks around the Manzanares River bend — striking as he pleases — has been known to haunt Pamplona in recent years.
The ‘Beast’ has pillaged Osasuna for a whopping five goals in our last three visits there.
As if that weren’t enough, Costa has scored the men in red and white’s last four goals against their weekend hosts.
The Brazilian, with 21 league goals to his name in the present term, will have a chance to catch up to Cristiano Ronaldo in the Pichichi standings. The Portuguese, suspended for a third league game on the trot after losing an appeal to reduce the ban to two matches, has 22.
But the main storyline heading into this bout, which will be attracting heaps of attention from the Spanish capital, is if los Rojiblancos can keep pace with their eternal rivals Real Madrid.
Los Blancos moved into sole possession of first place on Saturday after dispatching Elche at the Bernabéu, while Barcelona surprisingly stumbled on the road in San Sebastián–Real Sociedad hammering the dumbfounded Culés 3-1.
An Atleti victory on Sunday will set up a massive confrontation against Real the following weekend.
The major Colchonero squad story is that one of our superstar defenders is back from what felt like too-long-of-an-injury-layoff.
José Giménez…is not who we’re talking about. Oh, the young Uruguay international is finally back–but, all the buzz will revolve around the return of left-back Filipe Luis.
In his three-week absence since sustaining a groin injury in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals against Athletic Bilbao, the squad has lost three times.
It goes without saying that Filipe’s return will be met with some serious fist-pumping in Rojiblanco land.
Several of our men will have to tread lightly about the pitch if they’d like to suit up for the final Madrid Derby of the season–one that could very well have strong implications on the league title when it’s all said and done.
If Osasuna newcomer Cristian Lobato, who joined the squad on loan from Barcelona B in January, proves prophetic, Atleti may have a hard time keeping their cool.
“We’ll be very aggressive against Atlético,” the left-winger said earlier in the week.
Perhaps that’s why Diego Simeone backtracked on his suggestion that he would not rest any of his suspension-threatened players as a precautionary measure ahead of Real Madrid’s visit to the Calderón next Sunday.
According to AS, Filipe, Miranda, and Arda will all sit alongside each other on the bench for this clash–with Insua, Toby Alderweireld and Diego expected in the fold in their stead.
That leaves us with two starters on four yellows: Diego Godín and Costa.
Tiago, the sixth man with four bookings, remains injured and will miss out, as will the lucky-to-still-be-alive Javi Manquillo.
“It’s a hard match against opponents that are comfortable on their ground and that play intensely at a high rhythm,” Simeone warned on Saturday during his pre-game press conference.
“We’re going to have to come out tough because we’re going to find ourselves up against very pumped-up opponents.
“That will make it a very entertaining game.”
What does Costa have in common with all of Osasuna? No, not gross testosterone level–but that’s not a bad guess.
Javi Gracia’s men have struggled mightily on offense–Betis the only team with less goals than his club’s 21 this season.
Time is running out for the somewhat relegation-threatened outfit, so any points at home could obviously prove critical in their mission to avoid the drop to Segunda.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Aranzubia, Courtois
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Alderweireld, Giménez, Juanfran, Insua, Miranda
Midfielders: Mario, Koke, The Real Raúl, Arda, Cebolla, Gabi, Diego, Sosa
Forwards: Adrián, Villa, Costa
Osasuna match selection:
Goalkeepers: Asier Riesgo, Andrés Fernández
Defenders: Bertrán, Flaño, Arribas, Oier, Loties, Damiá
Midfielders: Lolo, Armenteros, Cejudo, Lobato, Silva, Loé, Torres
Forwards: Nino, Acuña, Riera