Atlético Madrid will be looking to put Saturday’s disappointing defeat to Barcelona behind them this evening, as they start their Champions League campaign with a tough trip to Turkish champions Galatasaray.
The red and whites will be desperate for another good run having reached the quarter-finals last year, but are in for a difficult test in one of the continent’s most hostile and intimidating venues.
Kick-off in the Türk Telekom Arena is set for 20:45 CET.
Last season, Atleti had a night to forget in similarly boisterous surroundings in their opening group stage match against Olympiacos, and have won just one of their last six European away trips.
Causing upsets in the most formidable of fortresses become the norm in our march to the final in 2014, but the team lost their way a little on the road in 2014/15 and struggled particularly in front of goal.
However, following an attacking overhaul in the summer, the new-look rojiblanco forward line could have the chance to prove themselves in Istanbul after Simeone praised both Jackson Martínez and Luciano Vietto earlier in the week.
“Jackson is ready to challenge for a place in the starting XI,” he told UEFA.com. “I hope and want him to have a great season because that would mean the team and the club do as well.”
“Vietto on the other hand is a very good striker, he can score, assist and works hard for the team. He still has to develop, but he has the characteristics that we need.”
So far, Filipe Luís is the only one of our new signings to have held down a place in the team, but will miss out on the trip supposedly due to technical decision.
The 30 year-old played on Saturday after missing the win at Sevilla and Brazil’s recent international matches with a muscle problem, but is missing just as a precaution to ensure he recovers properly.
Reports suggest that Guilherme Siqueira could start in his place at left-back, making the squad for the first time this season alongside canteranos Lucas Hernández and Thomas Partey.
Otherwise it’s a full strength squad for Cholo, who confirmed in his press conference that spirits in the camp are high heading into this new Champions League season.
“When you start a competition like the Champions League the motivation is bigger,” he told press on Monday. “Galatasaray may not have started their league well but they are a quality side, so we will be wary.”
“I’ve not decided on a starting XI yet, they are strongest in midfield and going forward so we will have to be attentive to those threats. I expect a fast and intense match.”
Atleti have met Galatasaray four times in the past, in two legged ties back in 1973/74 and again in 2009/10. So far, we are yet to taste defeat and also went on to reach European finals in both seasons.
Diego Forlán struck an injury time winner in the old Ali Sami Yen stadium to decide the most recent meeting, back when hero-turned-villain Arda Turan was lining up for the Cim-Bom.
Little over a year later, he made the move to the Calderón and Tomas Ujfalusi – a cult hero at both clubs – went the other way in a separate deal.
Despite winning the Turkish league in three of the last four years, they’ve had a fairly slow start to the current season and lie in 8th after the first four games, and were held against bottom-club Mersin at the weekend.
Hamza Hamzaoğlu’s side will be without Aurelien Chedjou and Hamilt Altintop (one of three former Real Madrid players in their squad) due to injury, but has an attack that boasts the likes of Lukas Podolski, Burak Yilmaz and Wesley Sneijder.
The latter is another who knows the rojiblancos well from his time in the white side of the Spanish capital, and had plenty of praise for his former rivals.
“Atlético are tough opponents, particularly in recent years when they’ve come on a long way,” he said. “To beat them we’ll need to play well as a team.”
“Simeone’s doing a great job, I have a lot of respect for him. They are one of the best teams in the Champions League, not just our group, and are challengers for the title with they talent they have.”
“I would make them slight favourites for the match, but the favourites don’t always win.” he concluded.
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Moyá, Oblak
Defenders: Godín, Siqueira, Savic, Gámez, Lucas, Juanfran, Giménez
Midfielders: Tiago, Koke, Óliver, Gabi, Saúl, Carrasco, Thomas
Forwards: Griezmann, Torres, Jackson, Correa, Vietto
Referee: Szymon Marciniak (Poland)