Atlético in Saudi Arabia for friendly against Al-Ittihad

Rojiblancos to round off the year with money-spinning exhibition in Jeddah

The King Abdullah Sports City stadium opened in 2014

The King Abdullah Sports City stadium opened in 2014

Atlético Madrid are back in action after the winter break on Friday, taking on Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad in a friendly match.

Four days before their return to competitive action, the red and whites will take to the field in Jeddah – some 5,500km from Gran Canaria where they play Las Palmas in the Copa del Rey next Tuesday.

Kick-off in the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium is set for 18:45 CET.

Eyebrows were raised when Atleti announced that they would end 2016 in Saudi Arabia, but there seems to be a lot of expectation in the middle east to watch the rojiblancos with all 62,000 tickets snapped up shortly after going on sale.

With a transfer ban starting in a few days and the new stadium still scheduled for next summer, the club are looking to maximise their increasing global profile and secure extra sources of income.

The match should serve as another chance for Simeone to experiment, possibly with the Las Palmas match in mind. A squad of 20 left on a chartered flight from the Spanish capital on Thursday afternoon.

Most of the big names will feature, including Filipe Luís who received the medical green light earlier in the day. Canteranos Rubén Fernández and Juan Moreno also make the trip.

Not involved are Alessio Cerci, who is supposedly on the verge of agreeing a move to Bologna. Diego Godín is rested, whereas Augusto, Tiago and Oblak remain injured.

According to reports, Cholo will try Juanfran on the wing as he did in our last match against Guijuelo, with Saúl partnering Gabi in the midfield and Griezmann and Gameiro up front.

Ittihad celebrate their 90th anniversary next week, and will be looking to make an impression against one of world football’s big names. They are third in the Saudi league, coming into the match on a run of six successive wins.

Manager José Luis Sierra will know Atlético and Simeone after a playing career that involved a short spell on loan at Real Valladolid and nine years in the Chilean national team.

After a five hour and 45 minute flight, the red and whites will have to adjust to a two hour time difference and 28°C heat in Jeddah, a far cry from the minus temperatures back home in Madrid.

Many players are only just back from jetting off on their winter holidays across the globe, and with a long trip to come in midweek, this isn’t the ideal preparation.

We also have an away trip in La Liga to contend with next weekend, with a tough match against Eibar who are just two places below Atleti as things stand.

Atlético match selection
: Moyá, Moreira
Defenders: Filipe, Savic, Vrsaljko, Lucas, Juanfran, Giménez
Midfielders: Koke, Saúl, Carrasco, Gabi, Thomas, Gaitán, Rubén, Juan Moreno
Forwards: Griezmann, Torres, Correa, Gameiro

  • Zinni DUDU

    First of all I have to say I loved these arab music before the match ! 😀

    Second: I really dont know if I should laugh or cry … I still do not get how an arab team can dominate us? Griezmann is totally out of form. Gameiro is not strong enough to lead the line. Koke is not creating anything. The only player who looks in normal shape is Gabi. Also I have to agree ahmad for his critcs about simeone and his tactics. Does Simeone really think, that playing Juanfran as a winger will solve our problems? I mean we are not creating enough chances so he starts playing right back as a winger…

  • Koke

    Yes, Juanfran as RW and Gimenez as DM has happened twice in a row in the past two games and I’m confused. Just when I thought we couldn’t get a more defensive-minded lineup he actually starts playing defenders as attackers and midfielders.

    I know this is a friendly but nothing I saw today convinced me that our slump will end when 2016 does. Very worrying. Is Griezmann burned out? Carrasco and Lucas seem to be our most reliable performers so far this season, and in a team full of experienced veterans, that’s not a good sign. On the plus side, Torres had some nice moments, as did Correa. And Juanfran’s goal was beautiful. Not quite sure how our defense that can shut out Bayern, Madrid, and Barca in years past is getting TORN apart by this arab team. And this has been going on for a couple months now.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    Well, Ahmad, an Arab, feels a little insulted by “how an Arab team can dominate us?”.
    I don’t know how much information do you have about Arab football, but if you read a little about it you will realize that we are pretty good, Saudi Arabia have won 3 Asian Cup titles and lost three other finals, five of those six finals where in a row, from 1984 to 2000, while my country Egypt holds all the records of African Cup of Nations, including the biggest of them: most titles, with 7.
    As for the clubs, those two countries in particular also have big clubs, since most of their players play inside the country, unlike Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, I think the reason for Saudi Arabia is that they pay very big salaries, even bigger than what many of Europe’s top 5 leagues clubs pay, while why there are not many Egyptian players who play in top European leagues is a big mystery.
    Unfortunately, I couldn’t catch the game tonight (I will try to watch it later), but I expected a close game, and I’m not surprised by the defeat, and I believe that Al Ahly of 2006-2010 who had many players of Egypt National Team that won 3 African Cups in a row was as strong as Atleti in those years, if not stronger.
    Did you see Egypt in 2009 Confederations Cup (except that strange game against USA)?!, imagine most of that team playing against Atleti, plus 3 more good foreign players, usually Africans (Aubameyang was close to join Al Ahly few years ago).

    About Juanfran on the wing, I was talking about that with my friends and made a reference to an Egyptian joke about a man that people were making fun of his name, because he had a funny family name, so in order to make them stop that he changed his first name, which actually was a fine name!!
    Our problem is not lacking a decent right winger, but it’s the 3 or 4 CMs that doesn’t leave a free spot for a second winger or doesn’t leave a spot for any wingers at all, 4 uncreative CMs and 2 uncreative strikers!!!

    And who the fuck uses Juanfran as a winger while he has Giatan?!!

  • Kris

    I fucking predicted this. lol not really that shocking that Simeone wants to play defenders throughout the pitch. Godin is going to be going back and forth between CAM and FW.

  • Kris

    Simeone has trust issues and the guy drives you fucking crazy with his decisions.

    Here’s a (currently) working YouTube link if you plan to watch the match.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    I thought we lost 2-3, that’s why I said ” I’m not surprised by the defeat”, but now I see we won, but still, the performance is more important in those types of games, and from the comments, it doesn’t seem good.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    Again, I’m offended by “this Arab team”, especially when it comes from an intelligent person like you who seems to know a lot about football.
    And I wonder why did you and Zinni chose “Arab” instead of “Asian”?!

  • Koke

    My apologies, I didn’t mean any offense, and was not trying to insult any culture, religion, country, or region. I probably would have said “African team”, “Asian team”, “South American team”, “American team” “Australian team” “Turkish team” etc if we had played one from those regions/countries/continents, basically whichever descriptor comes to mind first.

    What I meant to say is that this team, or any from the aforementioned places is not nearly as renowned worldwide as European football teams are, particularly in the top 5 leagues. If we are expected to beat 17 out of 19 teams routinely in the world’s strongest league, I think that it is problematic to struggle so much against a team from a league far less famous. Although I am aware that good teams and good football exists outside of Europe (Real Madrid should’ve lost that Club World Cup final imo)

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    No apologies needed my friend, I was just trying make a point, that the gap between Europe and the rest of the world is so small right now, and that good teams and good football exists outside of Europe as you mentioned, and not just in the last few years, but long time ago.

    But here is where we disagree:
    We are expected to beat 17 out of 19 teams routinely in La Liga, but we are definitely NOT expected to win comfortably or to dominate those teams and play good football.
    For two years now Atleti have been struggling against the likes of Getafe, Levante, Rayo, Gijon and Las Palmas, so when you are surprised and frustrated that we struggled against an Asian team that won AFC Champions League in 2004 and in 2005 it implies that Al Ittihad is not even as good as those teams, and that can’t be more wrong, Al Itihad, Al Hilal and Al Ahly (both of Egypt & Saudi Arabia) are definitely better than those teams, and maybe even better than Malaga, Espanyol & Real Sociedad.
    If we were talking about Al Ittifaq or Al Wahda instead of Al Ittihad, or about Barca or Bayern or Chelsea or Man City instead of Atleti then I guess you would have been right.
    I’m sorry to say that, but sadly it’s the truth about Simeone’s Atleti in the last two years or more.

  • Ahmad Musa

    Simeone is Atletico problem play your card correct, when will Gaitan start playing regularly? Juanfran better than Gaitan at right midfield amazing. Juanfran is no where to be found Vrsaljko have taken his RB position why can’t Simeone leave him on bench.
    I will like this line up against Las Palma’s
    Vrsaljko…… Godin….. Lucas….. Felipe
    Gaitan…. Gabi…… Saul
    Carrasco…… Griezmann…. Correa.
    Koke need some rest while Griezmann need better service.
    Hope this year will be a good one with UCL title and Copa title. Laliga for now is out of reach.

  • Ahmad Musa

    Hahaha then Moreira should start as CF next match