La Liga resumes after the winter break for Atlético Madrid on Saturday afternoon, the red and whites travelling to the Basque Country to take on Eibar at Ipurúa.
Having won their last three matches, Cholo‘s men will be looking for another three points to help them back into the top four going into the second half of the season.
Up against them are Eibar, who are enjoying another good season in the top flight and are only two points behind tomorrow’s visitors in eighth as things stand.
Both teams won in the Copa del Rey in midweek, the home side winning 3-0 in Pamplona against Osasuna, and Atleti 2-0 winners away at Las Palmas in Gran Canaria.
Diego Simeone is expected to continue his recent trend of experimental line-ups, a topic we covered in our latest opinion piece. So far, his changes have been getting results.
The Argentine head coach partnered Josema Giménez in midfield alongside Gabi in training on Thursday, with Juanfran dropping out of the XI. The impressive Sime Vrsaljko is likely to keep his place at right-back.
Up front, Fernando Torres is set to replace Kevin Gameiro. The veteran forward scored his 100th Atleti goal in our last meeting with Eibar, and was also on target in the reverse fixture at Ipurúa last season.
Yannick Carrasco is still out with an achilles problem, and Tiago, Augusto and Oblak remain on the sidelines. Thomas is at the African Nations Cup, so teen midfielder Juan Moreno makes the squad again.
“I would like to continue to see growth within our game,” said Simeone in his press conference. “With good training we can make different options work, and it has left us with a good feeling in recent matches.”
“We expect a tough match, but hopefully we can take it to where we want to. Eibar are an intense team with a clear identity, which is something I always have a thought for.”
José Luis Mendilibar has called up 20 players for the home side, but will be without both Iván Ramis and Kike García. However, Asier Riesgo and Fran Rico have recovered from injury and are available.
In both of their two La Liga seasons, Eibar have started strongly before tailing off after new year, but a win against Atlético could provide the confidence they need to avoid a repeat performance this year.
They are strong at home, having lost just once with only six goals conceded in eight matches, the second best total in the division. Back in October they also picked up a famous 1-1 draw at the Bernabéu.
Atleti will provisionally move up to fourth should they win, and with the teams from 2nd to 5th in the league all playing each other, Cholo will know the importance of not dropping points.
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Moyá, Moreira
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Savic, Vrsaljko, Lucas, Juanfran, Giménez
Midfielders: Koke, Saúl, Gabi, Gaitán, Juan Moreno
Forwards: Griezmann, Torres, Correa, Gameiro