Copa del Rey action returns for La Liga clubs this week, and Atlético Madrid will be start the mission to regain the title they won in such memorable fashion at the Bernabéu back in 2012/13.
The rojiblancos have been handed the toughest draw possible with Real Madrid and Barcelona both in our path to the final, but will first have to overcome the challenge of Catalan outfit L’Hospitalet on Wednesday evening.
Kick-off in the Estadi La Feixa Llarga is set for 20:00 CET.
Fallout the tragic violence that took place before the weekend’s clash with Deportivo is dominating headlines at the moment, but for Diego Simeone and his team, it’s business as usual as they gear up for another important match and competition.
The season so far has been intense and unforgiving, so a bit of respite will be more than welcome against the Segunda B side.
We will also finally get the chance to see some of our fringe players and canteranos play from the start, and with 6 games in 16 days from now until the Christmas break, the whole squad will need to be firing on all cylinders.
That being said, there are no easy games even at this stage, and despite finding themselves in a lowly position domestically, there is no pressure on Hospitalet and motivation will be high against the national champions, especially at home where they have a good record.
Simeone has opted to rest seven of Sunday’s starting XI for the trip, with only Miguél Moya, Saúl, Antoine Griezmann and Josema Giménez – given the all clear following a head injury – amongst the travelling party.
Cholo revealed the team that would take to the field in his press conference on Tuesday – Oblak, Jesús Gámez, Giménez, Lucas, Siqueira, Mario Suárez, Gabi, Saúl, Cerci, Cebolla and Raúl Jiménez.
Starts for Jan Oblak and Alessio Cerci will be the main attractions, the two having played just once between them from the beginning following big money moves back in the summer.
French starlet Lucas Hernández is handed a debut in the centre of defence, and fellow Atleti B teammates Carlos Ramos, Sekou Keita and Nacho Monsalve are also in the squad.
Returning for the first time since his red card at Real Sociedad back in early November is Guilherme Siqueira, but compatriot Miranda remains on the injury list.
“This game is an opportunity for those with less minutes, hopefully to respond to how they are being trained and prove themselves,” said Simeone. “Words are words, but what matters is what happens on the pitch.”
“The team will be competitive, one capable of giving us a big performance. L’Hospitalet will come out with great hopes and that should make for what will be an interesting match, we are not thinking any further than tomorrow night.”
One journalist also made the point that the likes of Diego Costa and Raúl García won their places in similar types of matches, although the Argentine coach insisted that all members of his squad come into his thinking for every match.
“It’s true, neither were playing regularly back then but they worked hard and got what they deserved. Everyone has a chance to play depending on the situation and opponent.”
Hospitalet haven’t played at this stage of the Copa del Rey since 2011, when they were beaten 10-0 on aggregate to eventual winners Barcelona.
Should we make it through, Real Madrid will be our opponents after sealing their qualification on Tuesday night. The second leg takes place in the Calderón on December 17th.
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Moyá, Oblak
Defenders: Siqueira, Gámez, Giménez, Lucas, Nacho
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Griezmann, Gabi, Saúl, Cristian Rodríguez, Cerci, Carlos Ramos
Forwards: Jiménez, Keita