Atlético aims to spoil Valencia’s perfect start to the 2010-11 campaign when the two sides meet at the Mestalla on Wednesday. Our fourth round la Liga match kicks off at 22:00 CET.
Atleti will fight to avoid slumping to a three-game losing streak after our successive defeats to Aris and Barcelona last week, whilst Valencia will be looking to make it four wins in four games and stay top of the league for at least a few more days.
The last meeting in Valencia between the two clubs was in the first leg of the Europa League quarter-final back in April, in what made for a spectacular back-and-forth affair that ended in a 2-2 tie.
The second leg at the Vicente Calderón a week later resulted in a 0-0 draw, but despite the goalless scoreline, the match included a thrilling late Valencia onslaught that proved unsuccessful, sending us through to the cup semi-finals on away goals.
Our previous domestic league clash against the Valencians took place in Madrid in March, in a famously scandalous engagement that led to the temporary suspension of referee Alfonso Pérez Burrull. We finished the wild contest victoriously, with a 4-1 pounding of a Valencia side that ended the game with nine men.
The three points provided los Colchoneros with some much needed breathing room, as they helped to inch us away from the relegation danger zone we had been flirting with for most of the season.
With the departure of star strikers David Villa to Barcelona and David Silva to Manchester City this summer, los Che quickly had their chances for a successful season written off. But at this early stage, they are the current leaders in the standings, after Atleti lost to Barcelona last weekend.
Manager Unai Emery has led his men, including new signings Roberto Soldado from Getafe and Aritz Aduriz from Mallorca, to an undefeated start to the season; not to mention an impressive Champions League 4-0 drubbing of Turkish outfit Bursaspor.
Veteran Valencia talents Juan Manuel Mata, Pablo Hernández, and Joaquín all stayed in town and continue to provide Emery with plenty of ammunition.
Both Atlético and Valencia saw a defender sent off over the weekend, one justly and the other perhaps unfairly so.
The images of Messi’s mangled ankle have circulated the globe and despite Ujfalusi’s claims that it was not his intention to hurt the reigning world player of the year, it’s hard to argue that referee Borbalán was mistaken in giving Ujfa his marching orders.
Valencia defender David Navarro was also sent off in his side’s 2-1 victory at Hercules after being booked with two yellows, though the second one was controversial.
The biggest question mark coming into this encounter was once again the availability and condition of Sergio “El Kun” Agüero, who has been left off the team’s official match selection. After being the victim of an excessively violent challenge by Athletic’s Carlos Gurpegui, which seems to have gone unnoticed in the Spanish media unlike Ujfalusi’s tackle of Messi, Kun rushed himself back into the starting line-up against the Blaugrana on Sunday.
Our Argentine talisman was little more than a lawn ornament in the encounter however, hardly factoring in the first half before he was eventually substituted just after the break. The rojiblanco attack became noticeably more potent with the entry of a fresh and fully healthy Diego Costa, who replaced Kun up front.
The 22-year old sent this message via twitter this morning:
“I will not travel to Valencia. I will stay in Madrid in order to fully recover. I don’t like it, but tomorrow I will have to watch the game on TV.”
Spanish sports blog sportYou reports that Kun apologised to his team-mates in the dressing room immediately after Sunday’s loss for his poor performance and for not allowing a more fit player to start in place of him, a gesture that sat well with the squad. Quique attempted to shield Agüero from blame though, voicing that he assumed full responsibility for the decision.
Tiago, who came in for Raúl García in the second half against Barça, suffered a right thigh injury and will also remain in Madrid.
Without Ujfalusi and Agüero against Aris last Thursday, Quique Sánchez Flores experimented with a three man central midfield formation that left the team in complete disarray. It’s highly unlikely that he will try that strategy again any time soon, much less against a strong Valencia side.
In addition to the absence of Navarro, Valencia will be without former Atlético man Éver Banega and winger Vicente Rodríguez, both due to injury.
Atlético’s 18-man match selection:
Goalkeepers: De Gea and Joel
Defenders: Valera, Antonio López, Filipe Luís, Godín, Juanito, Domínguez and Perea
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Camacho, Raúl García, Fran Mérida, Assunçao, Reyes and Simao
Forwards: Forlán and Diego Costa
Valencia’s 18-man match selection:
Goalkeepers: César and Moyà
Defenders: Bruno, Ricardo Costa, Maduro, Mathieu and Jordi Alba
Midfielders: Topal, Albelda, Tino Costa, Fernandes, Joaquin and Pablo
Forwards: Domínguez, Mata, Soldado and Aduriz
The match will be officiated by referee Iturralde González.
Atlético’s probable starting XI: De Gea; Perea, Godín, Domínguez, Antonio López; Reyes, Assunçao, Raúl García, Simao; Diego Costa and Forlán.
Valencia’s probable starting XI: César; Miguel, Ricardo Costa, Maduro, Mathieu; Albelda, Tino Costa; Joaquín, Mata, Pablo; and Soldado.
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