It’s a return to league action for Atlético after a well-deserved winter break, and they will be looking to continue the good form shown against Athletic with a win over Levante at the Vicente Calderón on Saturday.
It all kicks off in the capital at 16:00 CET.
The last time we played Levante was in May 2014 on match day 38. The Valencian side almost derailed our title chances, but Atleti managed to claim the title with two draws in their remaining two games.
This time around it’s a different story. We’re at home, and sit third in the league and four points off of Real Madrid in top spot. Levante are having a miserable season so far, and sit only two points above the relegation zone.
Atleti will want more of the same on Saturday, after they confidently dispatched Athletic thanks to an Antoine Griezmann hat-trick last time out. This was after a string of disappointing performances against L’Hospitalet, Villarreal and Juventus.
Simeone knows it’s important that the form carries over into the new year, especially as this game is the last before a Real Madrid-Barcelona-Real Madrid sandwich in the copa and the league.
“We had a fantastic second half in Bilbao, the team responded brilliantly to going a goal down,” he told the media at his pre-match press conference.
“We need to start strong tomorrow against a difficult team. Levante is a tough team. We have a lot of respect for them. We need to approach the match like the second of the Bilbao game, if we hope to make it a good game for us.”
A day before a sold-out presentation to welcome back a club hero, Fernando Torres, Cholo is expecting a big crowd.
“It’s going to be a packed stadium for the match with a lot of enthusiasm. We hope to remain strong at home, after such a good year last year. We hope the fans are going to be there, because we need them.”
Something else Atleti need is their midfield playmaker Arda Turan, and Simeone confirmed that the Turk will play despite missing training this week. We can expect a starring role from Arda, after he appeared on the Turkish edition of ‘The Voice’ this week.
Players that Simeone will have to do without are Ansaldi and Miranda, who have both been ruled out, despite looking like they could be fit to play. It looks like Godín will again get to play alongside his compatriot José Giménez.
And despite Torres homecoming now official, the player isn’t available as the Italian transfer market doesn’t open until Monday.
It’s also worth noting that should Gabi or Arda pick up a yellow card on Saturday, they will automatically miss the match away against Barcelona next weekend.
As for Levante, they are without the suspended David Navarro, whilst Héctor Rodas misses out through injury.
Goalkeepers: Moyá, Oblak
Defenders: Godín, Siqueira, Gámez, Juanfran, Giménez, Lucas
Midfielders: Mario, Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda, Gabi, Saúl
Forwards: Griezmann, Mandzukic, Raúl Jiménez
Form guide (last six in the league)
Atlético – LWWWLW
Levante – DWLDDD