Fresh off of a 6-0 shellacking of Guijuelo in the Copa Del Rey in midweek, Atlético return to La Liga action on Saturday evening with a home clash against Espanyol.
The match will see Quique Sánchez Flores return to the Vicente Calderón for the first time since leaving in 2011. The former rojiblanco boss will surely be warmly received by the home crowd.
Kick-off in the Spanish capital is set for 20:45 CET.
With El Clásico being played earlier in the day on Saturday, Atlético will have the rare opportunity to pick up points on at least one of Real Madrid and Barcelona.
After two straight losses at Real Sociedad and against Real Madrid, the rojiblancos returned to form last week winning 2-0 against PSV Eindhoven, 3-0 at Osasuna and 6-0 at Guijuelo.
Yannick Carrasco amassed three goals in the last two matches and five different players scored at Guijuelo, in an all-out attacking performance from Atlético against the Segunda B side.
Augusto, Alessio Cerci and Fernando Torres continue to miss time due to injury, but Filipe Luís is expected to return to the line-up on Saturday. Simeone named 19 men in the squad on Friday which means one will have to be dropped ahead of the match.
Espanyol are in top form defensively, keeping clean sheets in their last four league matches. They got 1-0 wins at Real Betis and Alaves, dominated 3-0 at home against Leganés and drew 0-0 with Athletic Bilbao.
Quique Sánchez Flores, in his first season at Espanyol, has been using a 4-4-2 lineup. Diego López has started in goal with Victor Sánchez, David López, Diego Reyes and Áaron Martin in the back line.
Reyes, Jurado – both of whom former players of Quique’s at the red and whites – Javi Fuego and Pablo Piatti are the midfielders with Gerard Moreno and another former rojiblanco Léo Baptistão in the forward roles. Hector Pérez has also seen time depending on the match-up.
Gerard Moreno leads the team with six goals this season, but Pablo Piatti is not far behind with five so far this year. Hernán Pérez and Baptistão have two each. Piatti also leads La Liga in assists with seven on the season.
Last season Atlético took care of business both at home and on the road, winning 3-1 in Barcelona and 1-0 in the Calderón. Antoine Griezmann scored in both contests while Fernando Torres and Koke netted goals in the away fixture.
Simeone praised his opponents in his press conference Friday, and as usual made sure only to speak about his match rather than the Clásico or the Champions League trip to Bayern on Wednesday.
“Espanyol are a good attacking team with a lot of very good football players.” he said. “The only thing that interests us is our game. We’re not thinking about anything else.”
Cholo also paid tribute to Quique and the work he did at Atleti, saying: “Quique has done a lot of important things for this club – during times when things were anything but easy, and the team were not winning trophies.”
“I remember going to watch the UEFA Super Cup final over in Monaco against Inter, as a fan – you could see what a great job he was doing.”
Before the match, both teams will unite for a minute’s silence in memory of the victims of the Chapecoense air crash, which included former Atleti midfielder Cléber Santana.
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Oblak, Moyá,
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Savic, Vrsaljko, Lucas, Juanfran, Giménez
Midfielders: Tiago, Koke, Saúl, Carrasco, Gabi, Thomas, Gaitán
Forwards: Griezmann, Correa, Gameiro