After a two week international break Atlético Madrid return to league duties at home to sixth placed Malaga, a team that trail Atleti by two points.
Whilst most teams in the league took a breather, Atleti only had a handful of players that weren’t on duty for their respective nations and will have no time to relax against a side rejuvenated by the arrival of new manager Javi Garcia.
Kick off for the fixture will be at 16:00 CET.
Atletico will be looking to push on after a recent stint of shaky form, most notably an away loss to struggling Real Sociedad and with a sold out Vicente Calderon, the stage is set for a revival.
Los Rojiblancos haven’t really exploded in terms of league form like Valencia and Sevilla, and Malaga are no pushovers. The Andalucian outfit have won their last five games and are knocking on the door of the top four.
A win for Atleti will keep the pressure on the rest of the teams in competition for the league title and would provide a much needed confidence boost.
Our trusted centre back and second top goalscorer Joao Miranda picked up a grade two hamstring injury whilst representing Brazil against Austria and will not be available for selection. This will pave the way for Simeone to give Uruguayan youngster Gimenez a start. He also has the experienced, and former Malaga captain, Jesus Gamez back to full fitness.
Tiago has proven his match fitness after starting against both France and Denmark for Portugal, his first appearance for his nation after a four-year absence. Raul Jimenez has given Simeone a headache after netting a brace against Belarus, the Mexican is in the squad but could find himself on the bench again.
The boss Simeone highlighted the importance of getting all three points against Malaga in his pre-game press conference claiming that the game will be played as if it were a ‘final’.
The Argentine went on to acknowledge the strengths of the away team.
“They have been playing well for quite a while. They have a team with good technical qualities and experience in the midfield. They are a tough team and they have good players in the midfield,” our coach said.
Simeone also conceded that his team lacked pace especially when counter attacking, a flaw that has hurt the side considering how they were so destructive last year due to it.
“One guides himself by the characteristics of the footballers he has. We don’t have much speed in long distances, even though I would not say that Mandzukic is a slow player.”
He later went on to confirm the selection of Uruguayan Jose Maria Gimenez defender for the vacant centre back spot.
“Gimenez has been waiting for his opportunity since September. He has had opportunities in the World Cup and with his national team. Hopefully, he can develop everything he has and what we know he can contribute. We know he’s ready.”
The nineteen year old will have his hands full with Malaga strikers Amrabat and Juanmi in great form. The latter admitted that him and his teammates are “going all out to win” on Saturday afternoon.
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Moyá, Oblak
Defenders: Godín, Siqueira, Ansaldi, Gámez, Juanfran, Giménez
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Koke, Griezmann, Raúl García, Arda, Gabi, Saúl, Cristian Rodríguez, Tiago
Forwards: Mandžukić, Jiménez, Cerci