It’s only July but Atlético are getting ready to kick off their first official game of the new season.
On Thursday night at 21:00 CET, we host Stromsgodset at the Vicente Calderón in the third qualifying round of the Europa League.
It’s the first of 19 games Atleti will hopefully play en route to the final on the 9th of May 2012 in Bucharest.
As we expected, Thibaut Courtois was a late addition to the list, but it’s uncertain whether he will start against Godset.
At the pre-match press conference, Gregorio Manzano refused to comment on his goalkeeping decision, so we’ll have to wait until he hands in the team sheet to find out who will be defending our goal on Thursday.
We don’t expect our ‘keeper to be called upon very often against the side that currently sits in third place in the Tippeligaen.
The coach was also asked about the big news that came in on Wednesday, but he refused to comment on the Kun Agüero transfer, which at the time of the press conference had not been confirmed.
At that point Manzano was also unaware that he would be without Diego Costa, who was set to start. The Brazilian striker suffered a severe knee injury during Wednesday’s training session and will be sidelined for six months.
Fortunately for Atleti, Diego Forlán had decided to return to Madrid immediately after his Copa América success to help us qualify to the next round. With only new signing Adrián and canterano Pedro available up front, we assume Cachavacha will start, as it is expected we’ll see two strikers in a 4-4-2 formation.
Manzano is also without Mario Suárez, who is again suffering from groin pain. The midfielder underwent surgery earlier in the summer and seemed to have left his problems behind him, but the injury was re-aggravated after our friendly games in Granada.
We expect to see the following players against Stromsgodset, although Miranda and Tiago might also take up a spot in the starting XI:
Joel; Sílvio, Perea, Domínguez, Filipe; Juanfran, Gabi, Raúl García, Reyes; Adrián and Forlán.
Goalkeepers: Joel, Courtois
Defenders: López, Filipe, Sílvio, Domínguez, Perea, Miranda
Midfielders: Tiago, Raúl García, Fran Mérida, Gabi, Salvio, Reyes, Juanfran
Forwards: Diego Forlán, Adrián, Pedro