The Copa del Rey returns this week, and Atlético Madrid are preparing to play their fourth match in nine days away to Segunda B outfit Reus on Tuesday evening.
Simeone has named a much-changed squad for the trip to Catalonia, which could serve as an audition for potential replacements for the injured Tiago to prove their worth.
Kick-off in the Camp Nou Municipal is set for 20:00 CET.
Having won their last four matches, kept five successive clean sheets and not tasted defeat since September, you would think that optimism would be at peak level amongst the rojiblanco fanbase.
However, Saturday’s 1-0 win over Espanyol was marred by the injury suffered by midfield talisman Tiago in the first half, who was forced off and now looks set to miss the majority of the season with a fractured tibia bone.
Atleti’s solid recent form is due largely to the excellent form of Tiago and Gabi, but the captain will have to find a new partner in crime at least until the January transfer window opens.
With Matías Kranevitter already coming in next month, whether or not reinforcements will be sought remains to be seen. Until then, four names have come to the fore; Koke, Saúl, Óliver and Thomas.
All four have been named in the squad for the game against Reus, and the likelihood is that they will all get the chance to play from the start and stake their claim for a regular place in the midfield pivot.
Gabi gets a rest, as do Antoine Griezmann and Yannick Carrasco after heavy involvement in recent weeks. Fernando Torres stays in Madrid, along with Jackson Martínez who is still recovering from a muscle strain.
In defence, Diego Godín, Juanfran and Filipe Luís also get the night off, with Miguel Ángel Moyá expected to start his first game of the season in goal.
Cholo has called up three canteranos, defender Borja González and attackers Samuel Villa and Roberto Núñez from Atleti B, and is also likely to give Lucas Hernández a rare outing.
The Argentine head coach spoke with humility ahead of the clash, underlining just how seriously Atleti will take the competition and opponent but confirming that he will make changes.
“The cup is very important to us,” he said. “It has played a huge role in the history of Atlético and is a tournament that has given us many joys and successes in the past.”
“We have an overall idea about the game and will transmit this to the team tomorrow. Reus are an organised team and haven’t lost at home in a year, so it will be difficult.”
Tiago was also a topic of discussion, and although usually tight-lipped on transfers, Cholo did hint that the club could dip into the winter market to find a replacement.
“We’ll work with the guys we have, but at 34 years of age he has an experience level that you don’t have in your mid-twenties,” he told reporters. “We always review the squad during the January window, even more so this year with Tiago’s injury.”
Switching focus to our opponents, apart from being the butt of many jokes concerning Borussia Dortmund’s much-coveted Marco Reus, what do we know about Reus Deportiu?
The club decided to give us a helping hand, and created this video in Catalan, in similar fashion to Sant Andreu when Atlético faced them in the cup back in 2013.
Geographically, Reus is situated in Catalonia with their closest neighbors being teams such as Sabadell, Espanyol and the aforementioned Sant Andreu. They play at the Camp Nou Municipal, a small stadium with a capacity of around 5,000.
The previous three seasons they have finished 14th, 12th and 3rd in Segunda B group 3, losing out in the play-offs last year against Racing de Ferrol. After appointing ex-coach Natxo Gonzales in 2014, they’ve improved considerably.
Half an hour after Atletico won 1-0 against Espanyol on Saturday, Reus themselves imposed a 1-0 victory over Valencia B with David Haro hitting the winning goal.
They are currently enjoying a splendid season, sitting atop their division with 11 wins and just one defeat from 17 games. Their defeat came away against current midtablers, Alcoyano, who beat them 3-0.
So far in the cup they have beaten Asco, Arandina and Lleida Esportiu. On this season’s evidence, they are amongst the best teams in the entirety of the third tier and will no doubt seek to prove themselves against higher opposition on Tuesday.
In two weeks time we’ll finally get to see Reus play in the Calderón, although not quite as Juan Gato infamously predicted last summer.
Never before have the two sides met competitively, so we should have a good atmosphere and occasion in store.
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Moyá, Oblak
Defenders: Siqueira, Savic, Gámez, Lucas, Giménez, Borja
Midfielders: Koke, Óliver, Saúl, Thomas, Villa
Forwards: Correa, Vietto, Rober