Rayo Vallecano travel west across Madrid to the Vicente Calderón on Saturday evening, as they prepare to face capital-rivals Atlético Madrid in the reverse fixture of the opening day of the season.
Kick-off at the Vicente Calderón is set for 20:00 CET.
Atleti started the campaign with a drab 0-0 draw when they travelled east, Atleti they will be hoping for a much better result as they hope to keep up the chase with Real Madrid at the top of the table.
Fresh off the back of another disappointing loss to Barcelona, this time in the first-leg of the Copa del Rey quarter-final, Atleti look set to make some forced, and some voluntary changes to the line-up that has served them so well over the last season and a half.
Diego Godín is suspended for the visit of Rayo, and also the second leg of the Copa del Rey tie this Wednesday. This will give José Giménez the chance to start alongside Miranda, and give the pair a chance to gel ahead of the decisive match against Barcelona.
“I don’t think they’ve played together yet,” said Simeone at his pre-match press conference. “We hope they can pair their individual qualities, and work well together.”
“Miranda came in and put in the kind of performance we’re used to seeing from him against Barcelona, whilst José is getting better with every game, showing growth and stability within the team.”
“Hopefully we’ll see them both carry on along those lines against Rayo,” he finished.
One player that is set to miss out, after Simeone decided to shuffle his pack, is midfielder Koke. The 23-year-old is second in the assists charts behind Cristiano Ronaldo, and Atleti may miss the maestro’s ability to create opportunities for his team.
Coming into the side however, is new signing Cani, who finally gets called up to the match squad after his move from Villarreal on-loan. The 33-year-old has been training with his new team mates and may debut in Saturday night’s game against Rayo.
“He’s going to be amongst those that we’ll focus on,” Simeone confirmed. “He’s improving. He’s been working on the fringes but now he’s been with the team for three weeks. At any moment we’ll see him come into the team and make the most of his talents.”
Whilst Rayo have been struggling at home this season – and they sit 19th based on home record, with only two wins at home all season – they are performing much better away from home, with three wins in their last six. This is something that has not escaped Simeone.
“This opponent faces us having had good games away from home. They’ll demand a good game from us, so we’ll need to show plenty of intensity and take the game in a direction that benefits us,” he told the media.
Rayo are a bold team, play with a lot of speed and with good attacking combinations. They have a clear playing identity. This game will demand that we’re at our very best.”
Tiago returns to the squad-list for the game against Rayo, after missing out against Barcelona. Lucas is also called up to replace the suspended Godín, whilst Ansaldi is still absent through injury.
Simeone has a full complement of strikers to choose from, with Griezmann, Raúl Jiménez, Fernando Torres and Mandzukic all competing to start up-front. Just how far Cholo is set to rotate is not yet known.
Speaking of strikers, Rayo president Martín Presa and their sporting director were spotted at the Vicente Calderón on Friday afternoon, rumoured to be completing a loan-deal for Angel Correa, after the Argentinean’s return from heart-surgery.
Hopefully we can see a deal struck with our local rivals before the end of the weekend, so the young talent can get some playing time in Spain.
Atlético squad list:
Goalkeepers: Oblak, Moyá.
Defenders: Juanfran, Jesús Gámez, Lucas, Miranda, Giménez, Siqueira.
Midfielders: Cani, Tiago, Raúl García, Gabi, Mario Suárez, Arda Turan, Saúl.
Forwards: Griezmann, Raúl Jiménez, Fernando Torres, Mandzukic.
Form guide (last six in the league)
Atlético Madrid – WLWWLW
Rayo Vallecano – LLLWLW