Following their late win there in the league last week, Atlético Madrid return to Vallecas on Wednesday evening for another clash with local rivals Rayo in the Copa del Rey.
With the games coming thick and fast, Diego Simeone is set to ring the changes for tomorrow’s first leg as fans celebrate Día de los Reyes (King’s Day) in Spain.
Kick-off in the south of the city is set for 22:05 CET.
Atleti moved top of La Liga on Sunday night, but were again made to work hard for it against lowly Levante as substitute Thomas Partey scored the winner off the bench.
It was the Ghanaian midfielder who also inspired the 2-0 win at Rayo last Wednesday by setting up the opener for Ángel Correa, and he is expected to play from the start tomorrow night.
There is a quarter-final place up for grabs, but with a big match away at Celta coming up, the likelihood is that Cholo will use this match and indeed the cup campaign to try new things and give rests to some of his regulars.
Reports state that Atleti will play a 4-5-1 formation instead of their usual 4-4-2, with Fernando Torres as the lone striker as he continues his search for goal number 100 in red and white.
Simeone also confirmed that new signings Augusto Fernández and Matías Kranevitter will be in the line-up, as long as the relevant paperwork arrives in time.
“Tomorrow is a good chance for the new players,” he said in his press conference. “Augusto was playing at Celta and he’ll have no trouble; Kranevitter is also ready if all the paperwork is done.”
The 45 year-old also addressed the issues he has surrounding his squad, particularly the overbooking in midfield following the arrival of the Argentine duo.
“The more competitive players in the squad the better, but not everyone can play,” he asserted. “Those who perform on the pitch will be the ones who play”.
“Regarding the rival, we know what to expect. There are teams in La Liga with a distinct style and Rayo are one of those. They are an offensive team that like to attack, they’ve scored in almost every game so we’ll have to be watchful.”
Cholo has allowed Diego Godín, Juanfran, Filipe, Koke and Griezmann the night off, but has called up everybody else available other than long term absentee Tiago.
Like before last week’s clash, Rayo come into the game on a low ebb, but they did break their five match losing run on Sunday with a 2-2 draw at home to Real Sociedad.
However, Paco Jémez had some harsh words for his side after the game, saying his team ‘weren’t fit to play in La Liga’ after they surrendered the lead twice.
Despite losing 3-1 in the second leg, Rayo qualified after beating fellow capital club Getafe on away goals in the last round, and will be looking for some salvation in the Copa to help forget their domestic woes.
With the return to come at the Calderón next Thursday, the Franjirrojos also know that they will need a positive result tomorrow to stand a good chance of going through, which Jémez admitted in his press conference.
They have a crucial clash away at Levante to contend with on Saturday, but are a team who go all out in every game and are out to prove a point, especially after losing so late on a week ago.
Defenders Razvan Rat and Antonio Amaya, who limped off in that loss to Atleti, are still sidelined with injury, but otherwise they should be at full strength.
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Moyá, Oblak
Defenders: Siqueira, Savic, Gámez, Lucas, Giménez
Midfielders: Kranevitter, Óliver, Augusto, Gabi, Saúl, Thomas, Carrasco
Forwards: Torres, Jackson, Correa, Vietto