Defending champions Atlético can clinch a berth in the Europa League round of 32 in front of their home crowd with a win against Aris on Wednesday.
The match is do or die for the Greeks, as a loss would spell the end of their participation in this year’s competition.
The two sides have enjoyed very different fortunes since their Matchday 1 encounter at the Kleanthis Vikelidis Stadium, which ended in a 1-0 win to Aris, stunning the reigning champions.
Despite getting three points on match day 1, Aris have since stumbled to third place in Group B. The Greek Super League outfit has only taken one point from their last three matches in Europa League play.
Los Colchoneros on the other hand, have rebounded formidably having taken seven points from their last three matches; good for second place in the group with two games still left to play.
Despite Héctor Cúper’s men desperately needing a win, the Argentine tactician didn’t seem too concerned with the possibility of losing.
“For 48 hours after the win against Atlético, the players were still talking about it,” he told UEFA’s official site. “We enjoyed it and so did the Aris fans because you never know when something like that will happen again.
“Whatever lies ahead, we will always have that.”
As the current holders of the Europa League competition, Atleti are under significantly more pressure to qualify to the next stage than their Greek counterparts. Los Rojiblancos will want to put this past weekend’s loss to Espanyol behind them and avenge their Europa League opening defeat.
“We’ve made mistakes in the last two matches that we have to fix,” Rojiblanco manager Quique Sánchez Flores told the club’s official site. “Aris knows that this is their last chance to earn qualification. They will be combative and confident. We know that it’s going to be a difficult match. We can’t underestimate the opponent.”
When Atleti traveled to Greece in mid-September, Sánchez Flores was forced to roll out a patchwork lineup without the presence of regular starters Sergio Agüero, José Antonio Reyes, Paulo Assuncao and Tomas Ujfalusi, all of whom were either injured or rested ahead of Barcelona’s visit to the Calderón.
This time around however, Quique will have virtually all of his stars at his disposal and there’s no reason to suspect that our line up won’t be the strongest available given the importance of the tie.
Defender Álvaro Domínguez made it back to the match selection having been surprisingly left out over the weekend. When asked about why he left the 21-year old off the squad that faced Espanyol, Quique assured that “there’s nothing wrong with him.”
“I’ve always said that the second year is tougher for some players. It’s true that the level of the defence has intensified. Our job is to stimulate those players so that they reach their best form,” he said.
Camacho, Filipe, Juanito, Asenjo, Borja, Pulido, Alberto Perea and Koke were not included in the 18-player selection.
Atleti will be looking to take their current home unbeaten streak in UEFA club competition to seven games, whilst Aris aims to extend their cup life by nabbing their first ever victory on Spanish soil.
According to AS, the Greeks will have the backing of roughly 2,800 supporters at the Vicente Calderón. There’s some concern at Atlético about the local turnout given the kick off time and temperature, and the club will offer a variety of ticket promotions in order to entice fans to brave the chilly conditions.
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: De Gea and Joel
Defenders: Valera, Antonio López, Godín, Ujfalusi, Domínguez and Perea
Midfielders: Mario Suarez, Tiago, Raul Garcia, Fran Merida, Assuncao, Reyes and Simao
Forwards: Forlan, Aguero and Diego Costa
Referee: Ivan Bebek (CRO)
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