Atlético Madrid return to action today following a two week international break, ready to banish the memories of our last outing against Valencia and return to winning ways.
This time the Vicente Calderón plays host to a visiting Espanyol team, with kick-off set for a very early 12:00 CET.
Sitting at fifth place in the league, already five points behind Barcelona, Atleti know that a win is absolutely crucial if they are to keep pace with the league leaders.
It’s another team from Barcelona we must contend with this week, and Diego Simeone knows the task at hand. He has allegedly left the team under no illusions as to how hard they should be working to prepare for Espanyol.
“Espanyol are a team that comes to play working very well together – and they play with a similar intensity to ours,” Simeone told the media at his pre-match press conference. “We will have to work hard, and concentrate.”
Thursday afternoon’s training session was called to a halt by Cholo, who was unhappy at the effort and lack of intensity shown by his players, according to Marca.
This was then followed by Simeone informing his players, in no uncertain terms, exactly what he expects from them.
The training session was without both Miranda and Tiago, who trained separately after returning late from international duty.
As a result, Jose Giménez is expected to line up with compatriot Diego Godín in the centre of defence. It will be his first official Atlético match since December 2013.
The defender played 180 minutes for Uruguay against Saudi Arabia and Oman last week.
Tiago will return to the side alongside Gabi, while Mario Suarez will again sit on the bench.
Cristian Ansaldi is expected to start at left-back, and although he only signed on loan from Zenit in the summer, the Argentinian knows what Atleti need to do.
“We will continue to play the kind of football, which laster year led this team to achieve many important goals,” Ansaldi told the official club website.
“We know this match will be another cup final. We want to win, and get back to the winning tradition that Atlético are now used to.”
Atleti are without Alessio Cerci, who trained all week with Atleti, after the forward was sent off against Valencia a fortnight ago for slapping the ball into the back of the net.
Raúl García is likely to partner Mario Mandžukić up front, whilst Antoine Griezmann, who scored for France this week, will have to settle for a place on the bench.
Espanyol are looking to make it two wins in a row after a comfortable 2-0 win over Real Sociedad last time out.
Atletico matchday squad:
Goalkeepers: Moya, Oblak
Defenders: Godin, Ansaldi, Gamez, Juanfran, Miranda, Gimenez
Midfielders: Mario, Tiago, Koke, Arda Turan, Gabi, Cristian Rodriguez, Raul Garcia
Forwards: Griezmann, Mandzukic and Raul Jimenez.