Atlético set out for Catalonia to face off against league-leaders Barcelona on Saturday evening.
A Rojiblanco side in tatters hopes to avoid a third successive league loss and fourth straight thrashing at the home of the Catalan giants.
In their last three league visits to the Camp Nou, Atleti have been outscored by a terrifying 14-3 margin.
Though los Colchoneros are the only team to have twice bested Pep Guardiola’s Barça, the odds are obviously stacked highly against us for this clash.
The Blaugrana seek a Primera División record 16th consecutive victory, with Atleti standing in the way of the tidal wave of triumphs.
As opposed to serving as whole prey to the Culés this time around, manager Quique Sanchez Flores wants his men to “fight like beasts.”
“They’re the best side in the world,” Quique told the club’s official site. “We’re going to try and control all of the positive aspects of our play. It’s going to be tough, but not impossible.
“We have to understand Barcelona’s play and from there, use our weapons.”
Chief among those weapons are strikers Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan, who will try to snap Victor Valdés’ streak of 371 minutes without allowing a goal.
The Rojiblanco attack duo has scored a combined total of 15 goals against the Catalan giants.
Quique, who celebrates his 46th birthday on the day of the game, will be without his favourite central defender Luis Perea, suspended for one-game after being shown red on his birthday last weekend.
Mario Suarez and Raul Garcia are both recovering from injuries and will also miss out.
Tiago traveled to Portugal on Wednesday to be with his family following the death of his grandfather, but is expected to suit up against Barça.
In the final training sessions ahead of the match, Quique tested out the probable defence he will charge with stopping the lethal attacking threat of Messi, Villa and Pedro.
That backline, composed of Valera, Godín, Ujfalusi and Antonio Lopez, would be a bold gamble by a man who will be in steaming hot water if the match ends in a slaughter.
Barcelona finished off Almería with ease in their Copa del Rey semi-final fixture this past Wednesday, but Pep Guardiola had some concerns about his team’s fitness ahead of our visit.
“We must try to recover in time for Saturday, as we face one of the strongest teams in the league,” he told the Spanish press after the match against Almería.
“This is our hardest month, as we have had little rest.”
It’s hard to believe that a man that has all three FIFA World Player of the Year finalists at his disposal, not to mention David Villa and the in-form Pedro, will be losing any sleep over lack of fitness on the eve of the match.
Unfortunately for Atleti, midfielder Andrés Iniesta is back with his squad after missing the mid-week cup tie in Almería and is expected to play. Carlos Puyol and Jeffren Suárez remain sidelined for Barcelona.
Atletico match selection:
Goalkeepers: De Gea, Joel
Defenders: Valera, Antonio López, Filipe Luis, Godín, Ujfalusi, Álvaro Domínguez
Midfielders: Tiago, Elías, Fran Mérida, Paulo Assunção, Reyes, Juanfran, Koke
Forwards: Forlán, Agüero and Diego Costa
Referee: Javier Turienzo Álvarez
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