Though Atlético’s primary focus will be on getting the job done against visitors Málaga, there will no doubt be a lot of scoreboard watching among the Rojiblanco faithful on Sunday.
Six other games will be underway elsewhere when the affair kicks off at 19:00 CET at the Vicente Calderón, including Barcelona’s visit to Elche.
Should Atleti manage to take the three points and secure an undefeated season in league play at ‘Cholo Castle’ and Elche upset the Culés at the Estadio Martínez Valero with a draw or victory, los Rojiblancos would proclaim themselves champions of Spain.
However, a Barcelona victory would set up a fixture seemingly designed by the football gods — one that has always hinted at a predestined importance — a La Liga final at the Camp Nou.
But, before we go on Colchoneros, stop for a moment and think about this: when would we have ever imagined that this season would allow us to dream of a possible Doblete–one that would be the club’s most important ever?
Forget about this past week–even though it has felt like an eternity after that sock-to-the-stomach loss against Levante.
The Red and Whites had a bit of a scare on Thursday, when it was reported that leading scorer Diego Costa was a strong doubt for this bout because of a hamstring strain.
‘The Beast of the Manzanares’ was spotted back in training on Saturday though, and even made the match selection, but it remains unclear if he will be available to take part in this fixture.
The club may choose to play it safe given the possible importance of next weekend’s trip to Barcelona and of that upcoming little final in Lisbon.
Málaga are more than relatively safe from relegation in 13th place on the league table. It would take a long series of unfortunate events — that we are feeling way too lazy to process right now — for them to see the drop.
After watching his Real Madrid throw away four points in their previous two games, it’s unlikely Florentino Pérez is feeling very generous this time around when it comes to motivating our opponents with briefcases full of cash.
Nonetheless, don’t in any way expect this clash to be a giveaway from our visitors.
“There’s no pressure, just responsibility,” coach Diego Simeone said.
“This is a wonderful moment. Everyone who works in football wants to get into important situations like this one. Tomorrow, there will be a lot of people in the stadium and that will help us face what is a vital game.”
While most will be minding the results throughout the country to determine whether Sunday will decide who gets to hoist the trophy, ‘Cholo’s’ beautiful brain will be fixated on one thing only.
“I don’t expect anything; all I know is that we need to win,” the Argentine mastermind said.
“For a very long time, our way of playing has been based on collective work and group effort. We have to play without expecting anything, that is the best way to prepare for this moment we are in. The future and destiny will decide what is to come.
“We have to do what has to be done.”
Who wouldn’t follow this guy into a pit of lava if he so commanded?
Simeone told reporters during his pre-game press conference that he had shown his men videos of their pre-season workouts in order to “remind them of the hard work it has taken to get to this situation”.
He continued: “This is a game, and the team that play the best win; but, sooner or later, hard work ends up paying off.
“Things will go more in your favour if you show spirit and desire.”
Atleti will be without the suspended (10 yellows) Diego Godín, the injured Cebolla Rodríguez and the unpicked Javi Manquillo for this encounter.
With a goal by Koke 20 minutes from time, Atleti defeated Málaga 1-0 at La Rosaleda in their first game of 2014.
Atlético goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois will be celebrating his 22nd birthday on Sunday. All the Belgian wants is a league title, is that so much to ask for?
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Aranzubia, Courtois
Defenders: Filipe Luís, Toby, Giménez, Juanfran, Insua, Miranda
Midfielders: Mario, Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda, Gabi, Diego, Sosa
Forwards: Adrián, Villa, Costa
Málaga match selection:
Goalkeepers: Kameni, Willy
Defenders: Weligton, Antunes, Angeleri, Eliseu, Casado
Midfielders: Camacho, Portillo, Duda, Darder
Forwards: Santa Cruz, Iakovenko, Rescaldani, Pawlowski, Amrabat, Samuel, Juanmi