Match preview: Espanyol vs. Atlético

Red and whites looking to end winless run in tough trip to Catalonia

Arda may have to settle for bench role at Espanyol

Arda may have to settle for bench role at Espanyol

The Champions League may be up in midweek, but focus right now for Atleti is firmly on La Liga, and putting their hesitant run of form to an end this weekend at Espanyol.

Out of favour forward Mario Mandzukic is suspended, but Antoine Griezmann is set to return for the Rojiblancos in Barcelona.

Kick-off in the Cornellà-El Prat is set for 16:00 CET.

Partido a partido (game by game) is a way of life for Diego Simeone’s team, but the last two games were probably likely to determine whether we would be challenging for the title again this season, or merely a Champions League place.

Rather disappointing draws against Sevilla and Valencia – 5th and 4th in the table respectively – have left many resigned to the latter, but with Real Madrid also dropping points as of late, the door could still be open for Atleti.

Heading into the business end of the season, the main target will be to return to form and continue competing for as long as possible.
Crucially, the squad have minimal injury problems at the moment, but two players will miss out due to picking up their fifth yellow cards of the season last week.

Mario Mandzukic has dominated the few pages dedicated to Atleti in the local sports dailies given his recent omissions from the starting line-up, and will have to sit out for the third consecutive game due to a ban.

Also absent is Guilherme Siqueira, meaning either Jesús Gámez or Cristian Ansaldi – supposedly fit having not featured since November – are likely to step in at left-back.

The one player definitely still on the treatment table is Saúl, who is still recovering from kidney problems picked up in the first leg against Bayer Leverkusen two weeks ago.

According to reports, Miranda will return to the XI in place of José Giménez, although Arda could be rested ahead of our return date with the Germans on Tuesday.

Cholo has opted to select all available 18 players for the trip, and seemed confident in his press conference on Friday morning that his team would be able to turn things around, starting here.

“We await the game against Espanyol with enthusiam and the idea to get back to winning ways,” he asserted. “The aim is to maintain the momentum we had against Valencia in the first half. That is what makes us so complicated for other teams.”

“Regarding the team selection, I still have to choose between Arda and Raúl García. It’s important to have strong options on the bench as well, I will make a final decision tonight.”

With this game, Simeone will overtake Radomir Antic and take his place on the podium for Atlético managers with most games in charge, and with 189 is fast approaching Ricardo Zamora in second place (206).

“I wasn’t aware of the landmark until reading in the paper this morning,” he said.

“I’m grateful to all the players who have been here in the last three and a half years and helped us reach this level, as without their hard work I would not have made it this far.”

Earlier in the season, goals from José Giménez and Mario Suárez secured a 2-0 win in the reverse fixture, but Espanyol are a different prospect altogether at the Cornellà.

The péricos were one of just four teams to taste victory against Atleti last season, and have already beaten the likes of Valencia and Sevilla in rampant style in front of their own fans in 2015.

They come into the game in a bad run of their own though, having lost their last two and 6 of their previous 9. Like ourselves, Sergio’s team will be desperate to put things right and get the three points.

Juan Fuentes is the only player with fitness doubts heading into the game but has trained and is likely to be called up. Otherwise, they have a full squad to choose from.

Atleti will be hoping to end a run of three consecutive away games without a goal. After the game, they return to Madrid to begin preparations for the vital Champions League clash against Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday.

Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Moyá, Oblak
Defenders: Godín, Ansaldi, Gámez, Juanfran, Miranda, Giménez
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Tiago, Koke, Griezmann, Raúl García, Arda, Gabi, Cani
Forwards: Raúl Jiménez, Torres

  • In 189 games on Atleti’s bench for both Simeone and Antic, El Cholo has more victories (120 to 88), less defeats (32 to 50), less goals conceded (149 to 251) and most importantly, more titles (5 to 2)
    But there is one aspect Antic is better in, the goals in favor, his side scored one more goal than Simeone’s (340 to 339)
    I think it’s the last 3 games are what won that race for Antic

    And that what scares me a lot, our line keeps going down, and Simoene is not doing anything about it
    Tomorrow, and according to the 11 he tested in trainings in the last few days, Gimenez is going back to the bench after another solid performance, and the shaky 30-year-old Miranda is back to the line-up while we have the most important game of the season just 3 days later and we need him to be as fresh as possible
    And again, it seems that the right-footed Gamez will play as a left back over Ansaldi and Lucas

    I’ve prepared myself to lose the 3rd place and to be knocked out by Bayer
    I think you should too .

  • I don’t understand the Gamez start over Ansaldi.

  • nobody does !!

  • Ssdshirt

    So you’re complaining that ‘shaky’ Miranda is in the lineup today, and he should rest for that important CL clash? I think it’s logical he plays today so Giménez is fully fit for the CL game.

  • Kris

    SMH, Raul Garcia and Miranda start again.

  • madwriter

    and Gamez…

  • Carpetano

    You don’t realize that it has to do with that Ansaldi received the same injury twice in the same place since he was restored by the end of January. His body type also makes it harder to get back faster from various injuries. He’s just not ready yet.

  • It’s logical to rest the 20-year-old to be fresh for the next game and play the 30-year-old who will also start the next game ?!!!!!!!

    I hope you’re talking about an injury for Gimenez that I’m not aware of, because if not, then this is a very weird logic