Atlético Madrid will be looking to book their place in the Copa del Rey quarter final on Thursday night, as Rayo Vallecano visit the Vicente Calderón.
The red and whites were held to a 1-1 draw in last week’s first leg, but are in pole position to qualify thanks to Saúl’s away goal in the second half.
Kick-off is set for 20:30 CET.
Although just a few miles separate the two teams on the map, contrasts between Atleti and Rayo this season have been vast.
The visitors have been really struggling as of late, and Saturday’s loss at bottom-side Levante leaves them in big trouble at the midway point in the season.
Paco Jémez’s side are famed for their exciting, attacking brand of football based on quick touches and possession of the ball, which is effective at times can also leave them badly exposed at the back.
Compare that to Simeone’s Atlético juggernaut, who boast the meanest defence in Europe and were crowned winter champions on Sunday, ahead of Real Madrid and Barcelona.
However, the form book gets thrown out the window in the cup competitions, and although Rayo’s priority will be survival, they make the short trip from Vallecas with nothing to lose, playing without the pressure that they’ve been under in La Liga.
Cholo acknowledged that threat in his press conference, paying tribute to Jémez’s swash-buckling style and true to form, refusing to look any further ahead than the clash on Thursday.
“Rayo are an uncomfortable team to play against,” he said. “They are brave in that they always look to attack, we knew it would be difficult when the draw was made and we still feel the same way.”
“Tomorrow we will play with the team which we believe is best suited to helping us qualify and with the players who can help us go forward in the match. The squad is very competitive and eager to play.”
The Argentine boss has called-up 19 players for Rayo’s visit, but will be without Fernando Torres due to an ankle injury sustained in training earlier in the week.
Reports say that Jackson Martínez will replace him in attack, with Ángel Correa and Yannick Carrasco also coming back into the XI.
Matías Kranevitter is expected to make his home debut, and Thomas Partey should get another chance to impress alongside him in midfield.
One player in the squad will have to drop out before kick-off, joining the injured Tiago in the stands as well as José Giménez, Juanfran and Augusto Fernández, all of whom get the night off.
Rayo haven’t rested any of their players for the visit, although are still without defenders Razvan Rat and Antonio Amaya, goalkeepers Toño and David Cobeño, and Patrick Ebert through injury.
Jémez confirmed on Wednesday evening that top scorer Javi Guerra would start, as well as Yoel Rodríguez and 17 year-old Joni Montiel, who caused problems off the bench at Vallecas last week.
After the game, Atleti will get straight back to work and begin preparation for another difficult trip on Sunday away to Las Palmas.
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Moyá, Oblak
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Siqueira, Savic, Gámez, Lucas
Midfielders: Koke, Kranevitter, Óliver, Gabi, Saúl, Thomas, Carrasco
Forwards: Griezmann, Jackson, Correa, Vietto