Match preview: Atlético vs. Deportivo

Torres out as Atleti try to keep faint title chance alive

Police patrol the area prior to a home game at the Calderón

Police patrol the area prior to a home game at the Calderón

Deportivo travel to the Vicente Calderón on Saturday evening to take on Diego Simeone’s men, who knows that anything other than three points will almost certainly put an end to their slim title hopes.

Kick-off in Madrid is set for 20:30 CET.

The same fixture last year was marred by fan violence and a death of a Deportivo supporter, but Atleti will want to keep the focus on the football as they chase Barcelona at the top of La Liga.

Atlético are eight points behind leaders Barca, but four points ahead of local rivals Real Madrid going into the weekend. There are only 10 games left.

Fernando Torres is out for the home side, after picking up an injury after scoring against Valencia last weekend. Stefan Savic is also out through injury, whilst Tiago remains in the sidelines. Diego Godín will return to the defensive four after missing last week’s game through illness.

“In these last 10 games every point is crucial to each club’s ambitions but we must try to treat the game against Deportivo the same as we have treated every other game so far,” Simeone said at his pre-match press conference.

“No matter what is the situation we are in, however long we have, we always work with the same enthusiasm and the same commitment because what excites us is playing for Atlético Madrid.”

Deportivo sit in 13th spot going into the weekend, despite not having a win in their last twelve league games – an extraordinary accomplishment.

Atlético have been back amongst the goals recently, and you can bet on Luciano Vietto hanging on to his starting birth up front alongside Antoine Griezmann.

Yannick Carrasco may start after his comeback goal last week, whilst Ángel Correa will have to settle for – place on the substitutes bench.

Goalkeepers: Oblak and Moyá.
Defenders: Godín, Filipe Luis, Jesús Gámez, Lucas, Juanfran, and Giménez.
Midfielders: Koke, Óliver, Augusto, Gabi, Saúl, Carrasco, and Thomas.
Forwards: Griezmann, Correa, and Vietto.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    Good choice for the photo, Nick .
    And I think the two clubs have done a great job by not selling any tickets to the away fans since Jimmy’s death .

    Those are the remaining 10 games for Barca :
    Getafe (H) – Villarreal (A) – Real Madrid (H) – Real Sociedad (A) – Valencia (H)
    Depor (A) – Sporting Gijon (H) – Real Betis (A) – Espanyol (H) – Granada (A) .
    There is still a small chance that Barca will drop those 9 points we need, especially in El Madrigal, Anoeta & Riazor and maybe in Camp Nou against RM & Valencia and that we will win all our remaining games and win the title .

    But we don’t deserve to win the title, and those are NOT title-winning numbers as the media and many people are suggesting, it’s true that we have only 3 points less than we had after the same number of games in 2013-14, and that with 64 pts in 28 games we would be the leaders of EPL and co-leaders of Serie A, but come on, we all know that we just can’t compare different leagues by numbers only .
    Most people know that winning the EPL with 90 points is a much greater achievement than winning La Liga with 100 points, while few people will argue with the great results of the 7 Spanish teams in Europe, and the answer for that is very easy : a league is all the 20 teams, not 5 or 6 or 7 .
    There is also the talk about our defensive numbers, which are THE BEST EVER under Simeone and maybe also in all our history and all La Liga history, but a football team is not only about defense, unfortunately for Simeone, you have to attack too .
    We should have beaten Villarreal & Sevilla at home, the gap could have been only 4 points instead of 8, those were two easy games, they just sat back and invited us to attack them, and for 180 minutes we not only couldn’t score a single goal, but we didn’t even create a single real scoring chance, because we don’t know how .
    We should have beaten Depor in the first round, but instead of trying to secure the 3 points with a second goal we started to defend with 10 players until they scored, then after their equalizer in min. 77 we started to attack again, Simeone brought Torres in for Tiago, but it was just too late .
    We should have scored at least one goal against PSV, that would have made the 2nd leg much easier, but now – unlike most of people who are confident- I’m really worried, one away goal for PSV and it’s over .

    Most people think that things have changed after the win in the Bernabeu and the 6 goals against Sociedad & Valencia, they have not .
    The Bernabeu game was our kind of games, a counter-attacking game, and against a highly overrated opponent, while Sociedad and especially Valencia are too weak right now .

    We still have problems, we are still reading stuff like :
    “Simeone hasn’t decided yet between Augusto & Carrasco for Deportivo’s game”
    Two different players playing in two different positions, because for Simeone it’s not about the game plane, but it’s about the players he trusts, Carrasco actually just talked about that few days ago : “You must earn Simeone’s trust to become a starter” .
    Saul has earned his full trust, Augusto too, Koke & Gabi earned it long time ago, and they all deserve it, but that doesn’t mean that all 4 of them should start together .
    Carrasco has Simeone’s trust as well, and in the last few weeks Augusto was injured then he was injured, but now both of them are fit, and that’s a problem for Simeone !
    How ridiculous is that ?! and how ridiculous that nobody can see that it’s ridiculous ?!!
    Everybody is praising Saul for example -and he is a great midfielder- but didn’t anybody see how AWFUL he was in those several counters against Valencia ?! and in that great chance against RM ?! .. because it’s not his damn job .
    (And please don’t tell me that he scored against Sociedad, scored once, but how many other chances did he miss and how many promising counters for us did he kill) .
    We didn’t win at Mestalla until an extra striker came in for one of the 4 midfielders, he scored a goal and caused a sent-off for the opponent, but luckily, the 27 minutes he played were enough to do that, but it could not be enough in the future just like they weren’t enough in the past .

    When you put the games against RM, RS & Valencia in perspective you will see that things haven’t changed much and that we still have big problems, the same old ones that everybody knows, and they could appear again tonight if Depor were able to park the bus the way Villarreal, Sevilla & PSV did .

    I’m not being negative, I’m not being harsh and I’m not being ungrateful, I’m just trying to be objective .

  • David in SF

    Ahmad- I’ve enjoyed your post for as long as I’ve been reading and sometimes contributing. We all know you set high standards but please get a grip- we are second and have overachieved beyond belief with the squad our age.

    Yes the epl is much more competitive but being behind 8 – now 11 currently- perhaps the best team ever assembled and in second place is nothing to just write off. Just my two cents. Love someone like you who always wants 100%. In some ways you are like Simeone despite your constructive criticism that comes from the right place.

    David in SF

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    I’ve been saying from day one of this season that I’m not asking this team to win La Liga this season or even the next one, it’s a very young team and it will need some time to fight for titles, besides, this Barca is too strong as you mentioned, maybe even stronger than Pep’s Barca .

    What I’m asking for is to show some signs that we are on the right bath to build a team that can fight for titles, and I don’t see such signs .
    Because while some people are happy with the 2nd place and the 64 points I just can’t erase from my memory the crazy celebration of Simeone when we scored the goal against Gijon (the 19th on the table now) in the last seconds of the game, I can’t forget the suffering against Athletic, I can’t forget that we played against a team from Kazakhstan with Gabi-Tiago-Koke-Saul and kept Oliver & Carrasco on the bench, while Correa didn’t even make the list .
    I can’t accept to see Munir getting more minutes than Correa, or to see a great talent like Oliver being treated the way he is treated .
    I’m worried about the fact that Juanfran & Filipe are over 30 and not getting enough rest because the first doesn’t have a sub who is at the same level or at least close, while the second doesn’t have a sub at all .

    If Real Madrid didn’t drop too many easy points because of their chaos we would have been 3rd, despite beating them in the Bernabeu .
    Our number of goals is poor, and our attempts on goal are even worse .
    We have got a good draw in UCL round of 16, but yet we couldn’t score at least one goal, not even when PSV were playing with man down .
    Real Madrid, the team that we are very happy that we beat got Roma in the draw, who are much stronger than PSV, but they didn’t struggle like we did .

    So why are we 2nd in La Liga and still alive in UCL despite all that ?!
    Because our players are damn good .
    The most expensive GK in La Liga history, the RB of Spain, the LB of Brazil, the 2 CBs of Uruguay, Tiago is a world-class, Grizi is a superstar, Augusto, Correa & Krane are Argentinian Internationals, Koke, Saul, Oliver & Carrasco are pure talents .
    We have a really great team with a lot of potentials, but we are playing very ugly and boring football and suffering in most of our games to score a single goal .
    David, did you see our game against Getafe one month ago ?! can you honestly tell me that you weren’t disappointed and frustrated despite the 3 points ?! .. most of our 64 points came that way, maybe some people can accept that, but I can’t .

  • Patrick English

    This is a young team and most of the players have not seen time in a starting 11 in La Liga, let alone playing with each other. The league schedule gets a lot easier in the coming weeks, and they should collect at least 90 points, which would win the league in almost any other year. So we agree that the title was a long shot from the start. They are showing signs of huge improvement over last year, though. 3 straight wins in which they scored three goals, and the best defensive record in Europe. A lot of the 1-0 wins came earlier in the season and were results of young players who were still figuring each other out, fixture congestion, an inconsistent player rotation, I could go on. Simeone had to prioritize the Derby over PSV away and sat back for much of that game. As for Villareal and Sevilla, those are two teams that are stellar in defense and that Real and Barca had problems with as well. The attack has looked amazing over the last three games and if that can continue for the rest of the season I’ll be pleased. Borja Baston will join next year and the team can pick up right where it left off and make a real challenge for the title. This team is definitely making strides from the one that finished with 78 points last season, please stop being so pessimistic.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    I’m not, pessimistic, I’m realistic and objective, all what I have mentioned in my two comments above and many other comments before are facts .

    We are doing good, and I believe with this group of players we are able -after a year or two- to do great, but I don’t think we are on the way of greatness with Simeone’s current methods, that’s my objective judgment, I could be right or I could be wrong, but I don’t think it has any thing to do with pessimism or optimism .

    I want to talk about 3 things in your comment :

    1- Even if we finished with 90 points, we should not take them out of their perspective, which is La Liga competitiveness .
    90 points are not enough to win La Liga in any other year as you said, 2013-14 was actually the exception in the last 6 years :
    2010 : Barca won it with 99 pts .
    2011 : Barca won it with 96 pts .
    2012 : RM won it with 100 pts .
    2013 : Barca won it with 100 pts .
    2015 : Barca won it with 94 pts .
    And it’s not only about the strength of Barca & RM, but also about the weakness of other teams . I have talked about that in length before .

    2- Many people are talking about the “young ages” of our players, which in part is true, but in other part, it’s really not a big excuse for Simeone : Godin, Filipe, Juanfran, Gabi & Tiago, 5 of the regular 11 starters this season are over 30, Koke, Grizi & Gimenez, another 3 starters are 24, 23 & 20 but they have huge experiences .
    The young players with few experiences who really need minutes have played very little, Oliver & Correa in particular .

    The “young ages” argument is similar to “changing many players and reinventing the team every year” .
    Since Simeone came until last season he always had a core of 10 players :
    Juanfran, Godin, Miranda, Filipe (except the one year he left), Gabi, Tiago, Mario, Koke, Arda & Raul Garcia .
    Now 6 of those are still here, plus Gimenez who is with us since 2013 and Saul & Oliver, two homegrowns who had their debuts with Simeone himself.
    We started Europa League final 2012 with ELEVEN DIFFERENT PLAYERS than those who started Europa League final 2010 .
    Now that what people can call “reinventing the team” .

    I’m not against Simeone, I don’t hate him, I don’t enjoy criticizing him and actually I’m not criticizing him right now, I’m criticizing the fans who are making up excuses for him that he didn’t ask for .
    I just love to see things from all angles and make full analysis of them and put them in their perspective, and I hate ambiguity and confusion .

    3- I can’t believe you just said : “Simeone had to prioritize the Derby over PSV” !!
    No, he did not .
    There is not a single coach in the world who would prioritize a league game in week 26 when he is 8 points behind the leader over a knock-out game in UCL, not even if he was 4 points behind, not even if it was a group stage game .

    While Simeone does not prioritize any game over another, no matter what the circumstances are, “partido a partido” is not an empty slogan for him, but he really does stick to it, and I totally agree with him in that .

  • Patrick English

    1-The majority of what you’re saying are not facts, but opinions and they overall reflect a perfectionist, pessimistic attitude that should not be brought to a team that is making great strides from 78 points in 2014-15 to at least 90 in 2015-16. I really enjoy the spirit you bring to the team and the high expectations you have, so I’d like to respond to your comments so you can see my side of the issue. You’re right, Atletico probably needs at least 95 points to win the league, but I believe they can get there with a consistent team that learns how to play together as this team has especially over the last three games.

    2-The team is not in a huge overhaul like in 2012, but it is still a lot different from the one that won in 2013-14 and undoubtedly young, especially in the midfield. Let’s look at the current team: Oblak (experienced), Godin (experienced, heart of the best defense in Europe), Gimenez (I don’t care if he’s been on the team since 2013, he’s 21 and this is only his second year fully playing), Juanfran and Felipe are veterans, but you can’t really ask for more from our defense anyway.

    Carrasco just joined the team this year, and although he’s one of our most promising players he’s still 22 and has to get used to the other players’ styles and Simeone, and vice-versa.

    Koke may be experienced, but he hasn’t played extended time with Saúl and has been thrown all over the pitch this season until only recently settling into his best position at center mid with great results.

    Saúl is 21 and while it is his second season, he’s still getting used to playing with Koke, Carrasco, Juanfran, Felipe, and all the other first team players.

    Gabi is aging, but he is one of the rocks in midfield as the only complete defensive midfielder and he has done a great job this season.

    I agree that Oliver and Correa are being wasted on the bench.

    Griezmann plays every game, he’s an absolute workhorse, and he has 16 goals this season. Yes, it’s less than Messi, Neymar and Suarez, but Atlético has never been interested in running up scores the way Real and Barca do. Not much more you can ask from him.

    The team needs a second striker. Vietto and Torres don’t cut it. But Bastón currently plays for Eibar and will join the team in time to make a title challenge next year.

    3. The “partido a partido” strategy sounds good for the press, but you have to prioritize some games over others in modern football. When you play two games within 72 hours between them, it’s almost impossible to win both. Simeone wanted the bragging rights over Real Madrid and knew he could have it both ways by just keeping a conservative clean sheet in Eindhoven. I have no doubt that we’ll squash PSV on Tuesday.

    No, Atletico won’t win the league this year, but as you said in an earlier comment, no one, not even you, is asking for that. The team will likely improve by 12 points in the league and advance to the semifinals of the Champions League. Those are great strides for such a young team that hadn’t really played together before 2014-15. The La Liga title may be the toughest to win in the world right now, but based on this season, I think 2016-17 Atletico should be up to that challenge.