After a rare mid-week off, Atleti return to La Liga action on Saturday with a must win clash against a Córdoba side still looking for their first win of the season.
Back in form since the international break, the Rojiblancos have been hard at work preparing for the visit of the newly promoted side, now under the management of Miroslav Djukić following the dismissal of Albert Ferrer.
Kick-off in the Vicente Calderón is set for 18:00 CET.
Mario Mandžukić struck just before half-time to settle a heated clash against Getafe on Sunday, a win that really opened up the league table on the weekend that leaders Barcelona suffered defeat in the Clásico.
Just two points separate the top five, and having seen the example set by Diego Simeone and his team last season, impressive starts from Sevilla and Valencia mean they are the ones occupying the Champions League spots for the time being
Atleti on the other hand lie in 5th, but can leapfrog the two early season challengers with three points given that we play before them, Unai Emery’s side facing a tough trip to Athletic Bilbao and Los Che visiting El Madrigal for a derby against a good Villarreal side.
Good news for us is that both Cristian Ansaldi and Gabi have made full recoveries and are available for selection again, with only Tiago missing with a muscle injury that has kept him out since the win over Espanyol a fortnight ago. All available players have been called-up.
In his press conference, Cholo highlighted the importance of not slipping up against the league’s bottom side, making it clear that no players would be rested for the Champions League on Tuesday and that, as always, it’s the next game that is the most important.
“The game against on Saturday is a very complicated one,” he said. “It’s crucial that we continue to grow and remain able to compete with the teams above us.”
“Although Córdoba may not have been getting the results, they have left a positive image and with a new manager, it’s hard to know what to expect. The only we reference we have is their last match against Real Sociedad.”
The Argentine head coach also spoke about the current state of the team and Antoine Griezmann, and hinted that the Frenchman could start yet again alongside Mandžukić, Koke and Arda Turan.
“We’re still not quite at the level we want to be. There is much to improve, but that’s normal. When a lot of new players come into the team, there will always be a period of adaptation and that’s not easy, but gradually we are growing and getting better.
“I speak with Griezmann in particular a lot. He’s a young boy and a great talent as we know from his time at La Real, but this style is very different for him.
“In attack, he is one of the players we depend and count on the most. With his play between the line’s, Arda’s hierachy and the versatility of Koke, we feel we have a lot of different ways to create chances for Mandžukić, who is the reference for us up front.”
Atleti actually played Córdoba last November in a mid-season friendly, Raúl García scoring in a 1-1 draw at the Nuevo Arcangel stadium.
The hosts may still be looking for their first three points, but have shown enough resilience to suggest that they could cause problems in the Calderón having drawn five of their 9 mathces so far.
Djukić, who will know the opponents well from his time in La Liga both as player and manager, has almost a full squad at his disposal too, with just full-back José Crespo listed as doubtful ahead of their trip to the capital.
The former Valencia and Valladolid tactician was realistic about his new team’s chances going into the match, but remained optimistic.
“We have been working hard tactically for this game. If you don’t, a team like Atlético will kill you, but we play with the idea to suffer, fight and hopefully win.”
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Moyá, Oblak
Defenders: Godín, Siqueira, Ansaldi, Gámez, Juanfran, Miranda, Giménez
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Koke, Griezmann, Raúl García, Arda, Gabi, Saúl, Cristian Rodríguez, Cerci
Forwards: Mandžukić, Jiménez