Atlético seek to snap out of their month-long slump when Valencia visit the Vicente Calderon on Saturday evening.
Los Colchoneros will be looking to avoid a fourth consecutive league defeat, as another loss this weekend could very well bring an end to manager Quique Sanchez Flores’ one-year reign at the helm of the club.
The coach had his men practise shooting drills in training throughout the week, as Atleti have been shut out the last four games. In an attempt to revive the team’s collective spirit, the club held a “One for All and All for One” lunch this past Wednesday.
Quique is aware that the squad will “touch bottom” if they are unable to take points from the encounter.
“We look to play a solid game, for us, and for the fans,” the manager told the official site.
“[The fans] know that the players are our best asset,” he said. “If Forlan plays a good game and scores two goals, they will surely support him. It’s a group of supporters that appreciates the effort and performance of its players.”
Conversely, Atleti fans rightfully get upset with their players when they don’t give their all. Lately, the squad has repeatedly been guilty of appearing disinterested and unmotivated, with some players clearly caring less than others.
“We will try to push forward with the support of our fans, because without their help it will be harder,” said Quique. “All though I do believe that we have to give before we receive.”
The Rojiblanco boss warned that his squad’s “only objective is to take out their anger” in the bout.
One player that will certainly be taking out his anger is former Osasuna man Juanfran. MARCA reports that the winger is expected to start after spending a couple of games, including the entirety of our last one, on the bench. Following the defeat to Pep Guardiola’s dream team, the 26-year-old vented his frustration on Twitter, where he wrote:
“I’m pissed off about the loss and about not playing, but I’ve been at this for a long time and I know that with hard work and sacrifice I’ve made it out of worse [situations].”
Signed as a direct replacement for Simao, Juanfran was handed a start and played the full 90 minutes against Real Madrid at the Bernabéu for our Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg match against los Blancos just a day after being officially presented by the club. Since then, it’s been on and off for the player.
A recent MARCA poll indicated that about 75 per cent of Atlético fans would like to see Juanfran back in the starting XI.
The biggest surprise of Quique’s match selection is that of new signing Elias’ exclusion. Many will be puzzled as to why Spain’s most expensive transfer of the past winter window was dropped out. The Brazilian started for his national team in their midweek clash against France, but has been unable to impress his club coach who left him off due to technical decision.
Filipe is out with a hamstring injury sustained against Barcelona last Saturday, and Ujfalusi is suspended after picking up his fifth yellow against the Blaugrana.
Mario Suarez and Raul Garcia have recovered from their muscle strains and Perea returns from suspension.
Valencia unbeaten in eight games
Unai Emery’s men have been eking out result after result and are unbeaten in eight straight league matches (6 wins, 2 draws).
Once thought of as Atleti’s direct rivals for a Champions League spot, Valencia have laid claim to la Liga’s fourth place spot and are just a point behind Villarreal for direct Champions League qualification.
A victory over los Che will hardly make a dent in their current 14 point advantage over us, but would boost our Europa League aspirations as we stand at one point behind seventh place holders Sevilla.
Valencia winger Joaquín remains bitter about the last time his team played at the Calderon in the second leg of last season’s Europa League quarter-final. In that match, Valencia felt they were robbed as the referee missed what could’ve easily been called a penalty on Juanito for tearing off forward Zigic’s shirt in the 18-yard box following a corner. Had the spot kick been given and converted, the Valencian outfit would’ve made it through to the semi-finals of the competition.
“I plan on taking my wallet with me and I hope it’s not taken from me,” Joaquín joked with the Spanish press ahead of the game. On a more serious note, the 29-year-old warned that Atlético will be determined to turn things around.
“Now that they’re struggling to get results they are much more dangerous as they’ll be out for victory to please their fans,” he said.
Los Che will be without former Atlético man Éver Banega, who is suspended for one-game. Juan Mata and Jérémy Mathieu, both with injuries, will also miss out.
Atleti haven’t lost to Valencia since January of 2009. The last three times we have squared up against them in all competitions the matches have ended in draws. Back in September, Aduriz netted a late equaliser at the Mestalla after we led 1-0 for most of the game following an early Simao goal.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: De Gea, Joel
Defenders: Valera, Antonio López, Godín, Álvaro Domínguez, Perea
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Tiago, Raúl García, Fran Mérida, Paulo Assunção, Reyes, Juanfran, Koke
Forwards: Forlán, Agüero and Diego Costa
Valencia match selection:
Goalkeepers: Guaita, Saúl
Defenders: Miguel, Bruno, David Navarro, Stankevicius, Ricardo Costa, Dealbert, Jordi Alba
Midfielders: Maduro, Topal, Tino Costa, Pablo, Joaquín, Vicente
Forwards: Jonas, Domínguez, Aduriz and Soldado
Referee: David Fernández Borbalán
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