Atlético Madrid moved top of La Liga on Sunday following rivals Real’s clasico defeat to Barcelona, although if you ask manager Diego Simeone, the only important game is the next one. Partido a partido.
That game happens to be this Wednesday evening as Granada visit the Calderón, and despite Simeone’s insistence on only focusing short term, it could serve as a good chance to rest players ahead of a busy end of season schedule.
Kick-off in the capital is set for 22:00 CET.
Throughout the season, many predicted that Atlético’s plucky title challenge would eventually fade and by spring time, they would be out of touch behind the traditional top two.
Defeats to Almería and Osasuna added further evidence to this theory, but now in late March and with just 9 games remaining, it’s the red and whites who lead the way and with head-to-head advantage over Real Madrid and a last day clash against Barcelona, they have their fate in their own hands.
However, there is still a lot of football to play and by the time we travel to the Camp Nou in the Champions League next week, the situation could be completely different. It’s that close at the top right now, any one slip up could be season defining.
Simeone has refrained from formally releasing a squad list for the match, but the suggestions are he could make changes to suit the more expansive, attacking style we usually see at home.
In Sunday’s 2-0 win at Real Betis, El Cholo called upon his trusted XI, although on Wednesday that won’t be possible due to suspension for Filipe Luís. The Brazilian picked up his fifth booking of the season in Seville, which should see Emiliano Insúa should step in.
Tiago is available though after serving suspension, with teenage full-back Javier Manquillo the only other definite absentee through injury.
In his press conference, the 43 year-old boss called upon the fans to show up in numbers and highlighted the important role they play in what the team is trying to achieve, highlighting just how big every game is at this stage.
“Wednesday’s match will be difficult, Granada want the points as much as we do and will no doubt make things complicated,” he said.
“Hopefully the stadium will be full, we need the fans and I hope the people realise before it’s too late. I invite everyone who comes to the stadium to share with the team this beautiful moment.”
For a brief moment, the Argentine spoke about the title race, but continued to stress that his side are the underdogs and not looking beyond the next match.
“There is still a long way to go. Real Madrid and Barcelona have great possibilities and 27 points is a lot to play for. Winning every game is a big ask but looking game-by-game, we think we have a fighting chance.”
The pressure has gotten to Atleti on the few other occasions they have lead the way this year, although with Barcelona hosting Celta a couple hours beforehand, chances are we will kick-off in second. Real are also in action, facing a tough trip to Sevilla, a fixture they lost last season.
Our opponents on the other hand make the trip up from Andalucía on a run of three matches unbeaten, although will be without midfield talisman Piti through injury.
Liverpool loanee Tiago Ilori is another not fit enough to play yet, although Manuel Iturra, Mikael Pereira and Dani Benítez all return to the squad and are available to manager Lucas Alcaraz.
After Granada, the Rojiblancos will return to training and begin preparation for Saturday’s visit to fourth-placed Athletic – formidable in their new home – in what many are labelling the biggest test of our remaining matches before the final day.