Match preview: Atlético vs. Hércules

Fans will get a chance to bid Quique Sánchez Flores farewell at the Calderón

Agüero hustles for the ball (

Agüero hustles for the ball (

On Sunday evening, Atlético will be looking to avenge the 4-1 pounding suffered at the hands of Hércules back in January when the two sides face off at the Vicente Calderón.

It will be manager Quique Sanchez Flores’ last match at the stadium he brought two European titles to.

Saturday morning, the Rojiblanco boss admitted what was pretty much a foregone conclusion: he will not be returning for another campaign.

“It will be my last game at the Calderón,” Quique announced during the pre-game press conference. “I hope to be able to control my emotions.”

On the subject of controlling emotions, this clash comes just days after a widely-publicised bust-up between the coach and forward Diego Forlan. On the bus ride back to the airport following Tuesday night’s loss to Racing Santander, the pair reportedly had to be separated following a heated verbal altercation.

“I’m not here to deny what has been said,” Quique told reporters, “Those who know Forlan’s manners and my manners know that we wouldn’t get past a verbal exchange of opinions. I’m not going to judge the reports. You read and hear about them and that’s it.”

To make matters worse at Atleti, Quique’s men have hit another rough patch, having lost consecutive matches against Málaga and Racing. Fortunately, direct rivals Athletic Bilbao and Sevilla have also stumbled lately and we are still a safe bet to qualify for a Europa League berth.

Currenty in seventh place, los Colchoneros can clinch a European spot with a victory on Sunday coupled with an Espanyol loss or draw.

Though the squad’s objective at the beginning of the 2010-11 season was to book their return to the Champions League, Sanchez Flores assured that Europa League play “is very important for the history of the club,” arguing that “there have been players here like Fernando Torres that left without experiencing a European competition.”

The Rojiblanco boss will have to roll out a patchwork defence on Sunday given Tomas Ujfalusi’s one-match ban, and Luis Perea and Diego Godín’s unavailability through injuries.

Godín was expected to recover from an undisclosed muscle strain in time for this encounter and even fully participated in Saturday’s practice session however, the Uruguayan surprisingly asked to be left off the match selection. Quique explained to MARCA, “[Godín] was at the training session and he told me he was at the limit. He says he can’t make it.”

Wild conjecture: Could this be an act of protest by Godín for Quique’s treatment of his compatriot Forlán?

Conspiracy theories aside, Godín’s unavailability opens the door for Atleti youth product Jorge Pulido, who is set to make his Liga debut alongside Alvaro Dominguez. “I’m especially excited that he’ll get a chance to play,” Quique admitted about Pulido’s more than likely inclusion in the starting line-up.

Juanfran returns to the squad after missing out on Tuesday, as he mourned the loss of his father, and Diego Costa is back from suspension.

Hércules will be playing out of pride, as their relegation from the Spanish top flight was confirmed earlier this week with a draw versus Mallorca.

According to an EFE report, Hércules coach Miroslav Đukić will have to make-do without several of his starters.

Colombian midfielder Abel Aguilar is suspended, while Sendoa Agirre, Nelson Haedo Valdez, Olivier Thomert and Royston Drenthe have all picked up knocks and will be sidelined. A crop of reserve squad players are expected to fill in for those first team absences.

While Colchonero supporters will be saying goodbye to Quique on Sunday, could this also be the last time they get to see Kun, Forlan, Tiago, David de Gea or others don the Atleti crest?

For his part, young phenom De Gea assured: “I will decide my future on the 30th of June.”

The goalkeeper told MARCA ahead of what might be his last home match with his lifetime club, “God willing, I will continue playing for Atlético Madrid for many years. Making a lot of money is not always the most important thing,” he said.

When asked about his and Kun’s future, De Gea responded: “I see myself with him at Atlético Madrid.”

Some late changes were made to the match selection. Diego Forlán has been replaced by Borja while Fran Mérida is also left off.

Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: De Gea, Joel
Defenders: Valera, Antonio López, Filipe Luis, Domínguez, Pulido
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Tiago, Raúl García, Elías, Fran Mérida, Paulo Assunção, Reyes, Juanfran, Koke, Noguera
Forwards: Forlán, Kun Agüero, Diego Costa, Borja

Referee: Eduardo Iturralde González

Don’t forget to post your prediction in the AtléticoFans Prediction League!

  • Flo

    Looking forward to see Pulido alongside Dominguez!

  • starvs

    Flo, if by ‘looking forward to’ you mean ‘very possibly could be a disaster due to Dominguez’ woeful form and Pulido’s inexperience’ then yes, I agree.

    But really, I too am looking forward to seeing how the duo will fair.

    We should be able to take a banged up relegation side…

  • Ringo Schut

    Hey, this is Atleti, the club that always goes against the expectations! Late years not in a positive way, most of the time, though…

    “I’m especially excited that he’ll get a chance to play,”
    Isn’t Quique the one GIVING the chances? Awkward choice of words if you ask me…

    So, Pulido-Dominguez… I hoped this day would come, but I’m not really sure about Dominguez’ form/confidence at the moment and I guess I’m not the only one…
    And I wouldn’t be surprised to still see Lopez as LCB, looking at Quique’s ‘tactics’ (yes, I hate him again, so “yay he leaves”)
    Midfield Reyes-Tiago-Mario-Koke probably, Elias isn’t convincing the last two games so Quique won’t use him, unless his name is, of course, Raul Garcia, which isn’t the case, so benchwarmer. Koke should hope that Garcia isn’t going to be in his position, though.

    Attack: Costa-Kun, for sure.

  • Its QSF last game at the Calderon, so make it count! We cannot possibly loose against a relegation side at home! Aupa Atléti!

  • Chalet

    I must confess that I´m a little bit surprised that Forlán made it into the match selection. But I am with Ringo Shut there that of course it will be Costa who will be in the starting line-up alongside Agüero.
    I agree that it might not be the best moment to see how the duo Pulido-Domínguez is going to match because we are still fighting for an EL spot.
    But against this relegation side we should be really able to get the things going our way.

    As for QSF:
    He made some really clumsy statements to the press lately and I won´t miss his clueless line-ups and other “tactics”, so I am glad to see him go.

    The only thing I´m concerned about is the fact that on Sunday evening still nobody knows which players are also going to leave the club.
    What will the audience be going to do?
    Bid farewell to players like Forlán – or De Gea or Tiago etc., just in case?

    @Martin Rosenow: I liked this “wild conjecture”… 🙂

  • Javi

    Chalet, reports we are singing Osvaldo from Espanol to replace Forlan
    Sounds positive

  • Raed from Lebanon


    Valera – Dominguez – Pulido – Luis
    Suarez – Tiago
    Reyes – Elias – Juanfran

  • Derek Maaijen

    There has been a change in our match selection, Borja replaces Diego Forlán while Fran Mérida is also not in the squad.

  • Ringo Schut

    That raises lots of questions!
    The inclusion of Borja is nice, but the (likely) reason is not…

  • Chalet

    Obviously QSF is finally showing more and more of his true ego.
    Given that this could have been the last appearance of Forlán in an Atléti shirt at the Calderón QSF is probably afraid that Forlán could take some of the attention away from him tonight and possibly therefore left him out of the squad.

    Not giving a chance to both audience and player to bid farewell is a disgrace.

  • Maryke

    I really hope it’s not Forlan’s last game for Atleti. As for Costa, I think he’s pathetic. Since his hattrick he never even scored a goal again, while Forlan had a hattrick against the Morocco side. I think Quique is taking the personal vendetta too far, and I’m glad he’s leaving, even though he led the club to 2 European titles.

  • Ringo Schut

    Even though he didn’t score since Osasuna, I believe Costa played in a very useful way.

    Still, lame action by Quique -.-

  • Sebyk

    I liked Costa’s contribution in all the matches he played lately. Awesome back-heel pass to Filipe against Erreala, he battled well against Espanyol and contributed to our first goal. Against Levante he played really well and was very unlucky not to score. His strength and doggedness were valuable againt Depor. Malaga was a bad match all around. I like Costa’s strength, aggression and movement, he’s an industrial striker we missed at some points this season and currently he’s twice a player as Forlán…

  • Sebyk

    And Forlán was tragical whenever he was given the chance – and he was given many chances this season, maybe more than he deserved. After all, his brace against some semi-amateur African is kinda valueless, look at his contribution in La Liga…

  • Chalet

    Costa has done okay this season but I always have a feeling that his skills are limited and that he is somehow way too clumsy to be a top-notch player.
    But I read in some interviews Costa was giving recently that Forlán was always helping and supporting him – regardless of Costa being in the starting line-up instead of Forlán.
    So I presume that both Diegos get along well with each other.

    I agree that Forlán has been given his playtime on the pitch but it wasn´t just enough to get his confidence and form back.
    And most of the time I had the feeling that there wasn´t enough help and support from the manager and some of his teammates either to make him recover.

    I don´t think that his brace in this friendly in Tanger was that valueless.
    Yes, it didn´t secure us 3 more points for La liga – but Raja Casablanca are leader of the Moroccan League and not a semi-amateur side and it was just the stunning way how Forlán scored these goals to show everybody that the Forlán of old is still around.

  • Chalet

    And another surprise – no Costa in the starting eleven!
    The line-up is:
    De Gea; Valera, Pulido, Domínguez, Filipe; Juanfran, Mario Suárez, Tiago, Koke; Reyes, Agüero.

    Besides I would like to know what happened overnight that Fran was also suddenly left out of the squad…

  • anyone has a link to a stream?

  • SoLobo
  • Sebyk
  • Mert

    lololololoooooo quique sanchez floressssss

  • 7th

    I have to admit, i will miss him. hope forlan stays.

    gracias quique.

  • I will definitely miss him! Many thanks to Quique Sanchez Flores, and I also hope Forlán stays! Aupa Atléti!

  • Chalet

    Can´t wait to see QSF finally gone next week.
    He messed up way too many things.

    And why should Forlán want to stay?
    People are constantly booing and whistling at him and calling him “mercenary”.
    And the whole truth behind this “plot-against-Forlán”-story is yet to be sorted out.

  • Sebyk

    I’m absolutely with Chalet, though I’m gonna kinda miss QSF however much I wanted him gone since winter. He returned pride to Atlético (even though only to take it quickly back 🙂 Thank you Quique!

  • Guest

    @Chalet. Once again, each point is spot on.

  • Chalet

    Once again – thanks a lot, mate!

  • Maryke

    @Chalet, do you live in Spain?

  • Chalet

    No, I don´t live in Spain.
    Should I ? 😉