Atlético return to the San Mamés on Saturday (20:00 CET), where they handed Athletic Bilbao their first defeat at their new ground earlier this year in Copa del Rey action.
“The Robin Hood of La Liga”, as Tiago described his club, will be fighting to hold on to the top spot of the table, while the hosts — in addition to seeking vengeance — look to stave off competition for the last Champions League place.
Atleti come into the encounter winners of five straight games in all competitions, with four consecutive shutout victories in La Liga.
Los Leones are unbeaten in six engagements on the trot, but were unable to defeat Elche away from Bilbao this past Tuesday.
“I expect tough opponents that play well,” Colchonero boss Diego Simeone said on Friday.
“They are opponents whose confidence grows a lot when they play at home, and with great supporters that accompany them and always root for them.
“San Mamés is a beautiful ground to play a football game and, obviously, we’ll need to play a great match, because we are up against a great team.”
‘El Cholo’ assured those in attendance at his pre-game press conference, that he doesn’t think about the league title.
“I focus on what we have to do, which is eat, rest, travel and play,” he said.
“What gets us going is to take on each match as if it were a final, because that’s the only path to get to where we set out to go when the season started.”
The Argentine tactician continued: “I wouldn’t dare say that Madrid and Barcelona players have less hope of winning than us. We all have the same chances and the same energy.
“Words serve very little purpose at this point, actions are what matters, and it’s those actions that will decide each team’s chances.
“We feel like candidates for taking things game-by-game. That’s where we feel strong. Dreams are for the fans, we live in reality, and to make it there, we have to win.”
Much-beleaguered forward Adrián has been left off the squad for the fourth straight league match. José Giménez will also remain in Madrid through tactical decision, while Filipe Luís returns after serving suspension during Granada’s midweek visit to the Calderón.
Meanwhile, Javi Manquillo continues his recovery from attempted murder.
According to Dani Hidalgo of AS, Simeone will roll out with the following starting XI in Bilbao: Courtois, Juanfran, Miranda, Godín, Filipe, Koke, Gabi, Mario, Arda, Raúl García and Diego Costa.
Ernesto Valverde’s men will be without captain Carlos Gurpegui, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last weekend.
Attacking midfielder Ander Herrera will serve a one-match ban and is unavailable for this clash.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Aranzubia, Courtois
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Alderweireld, Juanfran, Insua, Miranda
Midfielders: Mario, Tiago, Koke, The Real Raúl, Arda, Cebolla, Gabi, Diego, Sosa
Forwards: Villa, Costa