Atlético return to work a fortnight after their derby defeat when they travel to Pamplona to face off against Osasuna on Sunday evening.
The Reyno de Navarra stadium has been quite unfriendly to guests this season, so it will certainly be a tough challenge for Quique’s men to pick up the much-needed three points there.
Only Real Madrid have conceded fewer goals at home than Osasuna in the 2010-11 campaign, and Pamplona has been the site of a single home side loss this year, to Barcelona.
Atleti skipper Antonio Lopez, who called the Reyna de Navarra home for two seasons while there on loan from 2002 to 2004, is very familiar with the intensity Rojillo fans bring to their ground.
“It’s a very tough pitch, and all teams suffer there, but we’re ready,” Lopez told Atlético’s official site. “Even though we’re not playing poorly, the important thing is the points. We have to come out with at least the same intensity level as they do. With our quality, we know that we’re going to have scoring chances. We have to show our commitment at Reyno de Navarra.”
The left-back, who according to AS will likely start in place of Filipe Luis for this match, suggests that if his teammates aren’t convinced they can come out victorious, they “might as well stay at home.”
“We were asked to finish in the top four at the beginning of the season,” he said. “Now fourth place is very far. We all want to assure ourselves of qualifying for Europa League and not being in Europe next year would be a failure.”
Former Osasuna man Juanfran is also tipped to feature in this game, and is set to play on the right wing for his homecoming, as Reyes will reportedly replace Kun up top.
“I’m returning home and I have a tremendous desire to play,” Juanfran told the club’s official site. “We hope that everything goes well and that we can come back from Pamplona happy.”
Los Rojiblancos, who have only won two of their last ten games, will miss the presence and constant threat of star striker Sergio Aguero, suspended for this match after seeing a fifth yellow card against Real Madrid.
Fran Mérida will miss out because of a knee injury suffered in training days ago, and Juan Valera was left off the match selection due to tactical decision.
Osasuna have experienced an impressive surge in form since José Luis Mendilibar replaced Jose Antonio Camacho, sacked after los Rojillos’ away loss to Real Sociedad in mid-February.
Since Mendilibar’s arrival, Osasuna have won four out of six games, having lost once, and currently ride a three-game win streak.
Uruguayan striker Walter Pandiani will miss out for los Rojillos through tactical decision, and Rúper and Aranda are unavailable through injury.
Forlan scored twice against Osasuna back in mid-November to break his 12-game scoreless drought in a solid 3-0 triumph at the Calderón. Kun also added his name to the scoresheet in that shutout.
Atletico match selection:
Goalkeepers: De Gea, Joel
Defenders: Antonio López, Filipe Luis, Godín, Ujfalusi, Domínguez, Perea
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Tiago, Raúl García, Elias, Paulo Assunção, Reyes, Juanfran, Koke
Forwards: Forlán, Diego Costa
Osasuna match selection:
Goalkeepers: Asier Riesgo, Ricardo
Defenders: Sergio, Damiá, Lolo, Miguel Flaño, Monreal, Nelson
Midfielders: Calleja, Camuñas, Cejudo, Vadócz, Masoud, Nekounam, Puñal, Soriano
Forwards: Lekic, Sola
Referee: David Fernández Borbalán
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