Match preview: Atlético vs. Valencia

Our boys travel to Valencia looking to get back on the winning track


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.

Now head on over to the AtléticoFans Predictions League section and get your prediction in for this match!

  • Terrific article Martin. Impressively accurate and concise. Entertaining as well. Great to read you again

  • Ringo Schut

    We could think about doom with the Agüero injury blocking him from playing, but even without him we could accomplish something here.

    Still, I think we shouldn’t be too sad with a draw.

  • rojiblanco17

    I don’t know what is better: Diego Costa up front or an extra midfielder (Merida?)..DC hasn’t convinced me yet but a 4-5-1 never works. QSF will probably start with DC and I hope he does well, but I’m not very optimistic.

  • k14

    I hope D.costa will be a deep striker, he seemed good at that, and was pretty much useless when trying to dribble and create chances.
    No idea why Forlan was never used as second striker the same way he was at the WC, he was dangerous at that position even with the crappy wingers Uruguay had.

    Oh well, I will put all my faith in De gea again, he was always the major factor in most important games.

  • This one is damn important and damn hard. Draw wouldnt be bad, but if we are aiming high we have to win after the barca defeat.

    Maybe Filipe will suprisinlgy start?? Diago Costa is like the worst player on the template (along with Juanito) and his presence on the field adds nothing. I would rather play 451 with merida, even though we play much worse in this lineup than in our usual 4-4-2.

    We have poorly balanced squad, with too many medicore central midfieldars, who are crap and basically add not much, and we lack offensive players since Salvio and Jurado are gone. If we start with Costa or Merida we will have only one(!) offensive player on the bench to turn thins round if smth goes rong. We wont make it this way in the long run.

  • I.A.

    Well, to this match, i think is better to reforce the middle with Merida behind Forlan as second striker and helping RG and assunçao to pressing and distributing the game. Transpired the time in the second half depending of Forlan´s fatigue, i would prove Costa,, . We must bite today if we want to do something. We must to play as a team

  • I.A.

    Urban, Salvio was one of more critized players on the pre-season. Jurado, in my opinion, is a overvalued player. If we have today another defeat, the reason there won´t be in these absences. i repeat, we must to play as a team today, steal the ball in the middle and, controll the game

  • Martin Rosenow

    The post has been updated with Valencia’s match selection.

  • Ringo Schut

    And Costa was praised in the pre-season.
    We had crappy games, but what followed were three pretty amazing wins.

    Pre-season doesn’t say that much… Salvio might’ve found his confidence back by now. Hopefully he’s playing at Benfica, he could be a great player.

    I don’t know what’s the best way to play. A stronger midfield could work, but not like last time, I think they were all three too much central midfielders, two of those are enough. The third one should be a different type of player, like Mérida.

    De Gea; Perea, Godín, Domínguez, Filipe; Mérida, Assunçao, Tiago; Reyes, Forlán, Simão.

    Not sure about Filipe and not adding Costa, but this would work, I guess 🙂 Valera could also play instead of Perea, but rather not 😉

    I’d also like Forlán as more of a ’10’, but that could be hard to accomplish, Costa is the only other attacker, having him as extra striker when needed (second half), could prove successful:

    De Gea; Perea, Godín, Domínguez, Filipe; Mérida, Tiago; Reyes, Forlán, Simão; Costa.

    This has a lot creativity (potentially), but asks for a lot of responsibility!

  • Mohammed

    They should’ve finished the match when they had the chance but Forlan, Simao and Reyes just kept wasting chance after chance. Playing with no intensity at all. What a complete waste. The worst result this season. It was in our hands but we gave it away with ease.

    QSF should’ve made the change when Valencia began to control the game.

  • I woudn’t say it was that bad – Valencia had chance after chance after chance too…
    Yes, it would be better if Forlan was quicker in those two cases, or Valencia defender clumsier, etc. But you can’t convert them all, look at RM, they realize maybe 1 chance in 10, but they keep creating them and that’s the difference!

    Midfield was really bad in this game, Atleti couldn’t keep posession at all, and that killed them. They settled into a routine of De Gea kicking the ball far out and Valencia picking it, instead of playing it short to a midfielder and keeping posession. QSF should have done something about it.
    Don’t know why it wasn’t clicking – Reyes had a bad fall, Merida still needs time to get into it, and Kun wasn’t there and he’s doing half that work usually.

    But on the good side – they turned the losing streak around, they held off the difficult foe away, they were able to click without Kun in the 1st half, and that first goal was a thing of beauty, everyone in that combination should be proud- Forlan, Garcia, Simao.

    They need to find a working formula without Kun and train like hell for it, as Kum won’t be 100% for 2 weeks at least, if he goes and plays.

  • I.A.

    The combination in the first goal: from Forlan to López, and from López to Simao. RG played very well on the first 45 but he didn´t participate in that combinatión, at least since Forlan took the ball.
    The game was, like i thought, very tactical. On the 2nd half when we lost the controll (RG never makes a complete work),improved clearly the Valencia´s chances. I think with Tiago, The team would had controlled the whole match.

  • I.A. – yes, sorry, it was hard to see who it was in a stream, and the comm said it was Garcia. I found out later it was Lopez.
    Still wondered about defense and De Gea always kicking out the ball in 2nd half instead of passing – that never even gave midfield a chance.