Having closed the gap domestically over the weekend, Atlético are preparing for the first of a Copa del Rey double header against rivals Real Madrid on Wednesday.
With Fernando Torres now available and set to start, the colchoneros will look to avenge last year’s semi-final defeat and reclaim the trophy they won so memorably in 2013.
Kick-off in the capital is set for 21:00 CET.
For a while, it looked as if Real Madrid would come to the Calderón in search of a record equalling 24th win in succession this week, but were stopped in their tracks on Sunday as Valencia beat them 2-1.
Prior to that, the last time they had failed to claim the three points was against Atleti back in early September.
However, now the gap between ourselves and los Blancos is down to just the one point (albeit having played a game more), some are suggesting that Simeone may not prioritise the cup this year – especially as Barcelona are likely to await the winners in the net round.
Arda Turan and Mario Mandžukić – match-winners in our two derby triumphs so far this season – were both given rest on Monday while the rest of the team trained, as were Tiago and Guilherme Siqueira, although both came in voluntarily to work in the gym.
Cristian Rodríguez, Cristian Ansaldi and João Miranda are also all making their way back to full fitness following recent injuries, none of whom make the squad.
At the back, the suggestions are that we could see Juanfran swift from right to left to accommodate Jesús Gámez, and Jan Oblak is also set to start in goal ahead of Miguel Ángel Moyá.
In his pre-match press conference, Cholo confirmed that a certain returning hero would be in his starting line-up.
“Fernando Torres will start on Wednesday,” he told press. “He is fit, with Milan he was training and he has spent several days with us now, so hopefully he will play well and give us what we need.
“[Torres] comes with great enthusiasm and excitement, a sense of belonging. His signing was something I wanted ever since I arrived three years ago.
“Personally I have great memories of him and we have a great relationship ever since we played together.” In typical manner, the Argentine tactician remained diplomatic when discussing the game itself, paying tribute to Carlo Ancelotti’s team and remaining tight-lipped on his approach.
“I see this Madrid team very well. They played well at Valencia, with lots of intensity after winning the Club World Cup.
“They have a quality coach, and their level allows them to go so many games unbeaten so I expect a very tough match.”
As for our cross-town neighbours, it’s reported that they will play a strong team but also make a few rotations ahead of a potentially very busy few months.
“A usual eleven will play, there could be changes but we are going to field the best team possible. Keylor [Navas] will play in goal in the Copa until the end of our campaign.
“Our approach to the game will be the same as always: we’ll try to play to our philosophy, with intensity and quality. They will play a focused, intense game like us. The team that does its job better out on the field will win.”
One interesting pre-match footnote comes from Frente Atlético, who of course were excluded from the Calderón following violence with other ultras groups back in November.
A statement released on Tuesday confirmed that those allowed into the stadium will be offering their support for this game only, having spent the last few matches in silence in protest of the ban.
However, their stance remains the same and will continue until further notice, with the debate and apparent division between supporters regarding Frente looking set to ramble on.
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Moyá, Oblak
Defenders: Godín, Siqueira, Gámez, Juanfran, Giménez, Lucas
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Tiago, Koke, Griezmann, Raúl García, Arda, Gabi, Saúl
Forwards: Mandžukić, Raúl Jiménez, Torres