Atlético Madrid can book their place in the last 16 of the Champions League on Wednesday as they welcome Greek champions Olympiacos to the Vicente Calderón.
The Colchoneros will be looking to avenge the defeat they suffered in Athens back in September, and can even make sure of top spot should Juventus fail to win in Malmö.
Kick-off in the Spanish capital is set for 20:45 CET.
Having recovered from such a nightmare start, Atleti lead the way in Group A with nine points, three ahead of the chasing pack of Olympiacos and Juventus.
Now however, we face what will most likely be the defining match day, and a clash against a side more than familiar with Spanish football and Simeone’s team.
Three points are a necessity both for us and the visitors – unlucky to be beaten last time out in Turin – who can draw level and really open up the group should they pull off a shock win at the home of last year’s runner-up.
Goals from Tiago, Antoine Griezmann and Diego Godín saw Atleti overcome Málaga 3-1 at the weekend, and suggestions are that we could see the same team take to the field tomorrow evening.
Cholo is boosted by the return of Mario Suárez from suspension, but he has decided to leave out left-back Guilherme Siqueira for technical reasons. The Brazilian also served a ban on Saturday following dismissal at Real Sociedad before the International break, but has not found his way back into the squad.
Mario Mandžukić is available despite some slight concerns, although defensive talisman Miranda remains out with a hamstring injury.
In his press conference, the former red and white idol insisted that his top scorer would be available to play, and also highlighted the danger Olympiacos pose, in particular on the break.
“Mandžukić has been working very hard and helps us a lot on the pitch, right now it’s hard to imagine him not playing tomorrow,” said the Argentine.
“The game will be very competitive. We weren’t surprised with how Olympiacos played in Greece, they’re a team who are strong at home and very quick on the counter, with dangerous attacking players such as Domínguez or Afellay.”
“At the Calderón, things will be much different but we know the stengths they have on the counter. I trust for us to decide on the pitch how to defend when this happens.”
Olympiacos have not played since before the international break, last weekend’s trip to Xanthi postponed along with the rest of the matches in the Greek Superleague after a refereeing official was attacked.
Under the guidance of former Real Madrid legend Míchel – who AS revealed was actually once an Atleti socio – the Τhrylos ran away with the domestic title in 2013/14, but sit narrowly behind PAOK in second as things stand.
They have also seen their form away from the Georgios Karaiskakis drop a little as of late, having won just 2 of the last 10 on their travels, including losses at group rivals Malmö and Juventus earlier on in the competition.
“We are well aware of how [Atleti] play in all aspects. There is no difference to how they play home or away, so we will try and repeat our performance from back in September,” he said.
When asked which Atlético player he would most like to sign, he answered with goalkeeper Roberto, who came through at the Vicente Calderón and joined from Simeone’s team last year.
“Roberto is a truly excellent goalkeeper and this is a special occasion for him, he is terrific. If Koke or Arda were to miss the game though, I wouldn’t complain!”
One footnote ahead of the game you may be glad to hear is that Michel Platini will not be in attendance, despite having been invited on behalf of the club according to Mundo Deportivo.
The UEFA president reportedly declined the invitation due to the unsympathetic feeling towards him from Atleti supporters. The Champions League anthem is still roundly booed before matches following his decision to play our 2008 clash against PSV behind closed doors.
After the game, focus switches back to La Liga and a third home successive home match, Deportivo la Coruña the next visitors to the Calderón on Sunday lunchtime.
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Moyá, Oblak
Defenders: Godín, Ansaldi, Gámez, Juanfran, Giménez
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Tiago, Koke, Griezmann, Raúl García, Arda, Gabi, Saúl, C.Rodríguez, Cerci
Forwards: Mandžukić, Jiménez
Referee: Wolfgang Stark (Germany)