Atlético face their biggest challenge of the young season when they head out to Valencia on Saturday to take on the local Champions League calibre squad.
Atleti manager Gregorio Manzano very confidently assured in Friday’s pre-game press conference that his men are “prepared to compete against any opponent”.
While los Rojiblancos snatched up world class players over the summer transfer window, most notably, Radamel Falcao, Arda Turan and Diego, the new guys have had very little time to train with the rest of the squad given their late signings and international duty.
“Perhaps from the standpoint of the latest additions there might be a lack of cohesion, as would be logical,” said Manzano.
“Players have barely gotten to know each other in the dressing room, like, for example, how just the day before yesterday Falcao, Diego or Turan met.
“It takes time for them to start adapting and connecting on the playing field.”
Following what was ultimately a disappointing home draw against Osasuna in the first match week, los Colchoneros have no time to waste and will need to develop chemistry immediately.
The clash at Mestalla sets off a string of eight matches of domestic and European play within a three-week time span for Atleti that will almost surely determine the course of the rest of the season.
Manzano hinted at the strong possibility that the trinity of new stars will see some action Saturday, though he did not reveal if they would be in the starting line-up.
“All three have been called up for the Valencia match and I hope that we will be able to see the players at some point during the game, if not throughout the entire time,” he said.
Valencia boss Unai Emery warned that “Atlético have only replaced parts of their squad for others that are just as capable, such as Agüero for Falcao.”
“They have the advantage of having seen more action already,” he was quoted as saying by Atlético’s official site.
“It’s a very demanding game.”
Emery’s men took all three points when they hosted Racing Santander in their league opener a fortnight ago, a thrilling last-minute-comeback victory.
Los Che hitman Roberto Soldado bagged a hat-trick in the encounter, so Atlético will want to keep tabs on the Valencia striker.
“A player that scores three goals is someone you have to be aware of the next game, but even if he hadn’t scored any we would look out for him all the same,” warned Manzano.
“We’ll be cautious with everyone though, not just with Soldado.”
In addition to marking ‘Bobby Soldier’ tightly, our men will want to keep a close eye (or leg) on winger Pablo Piatti, who has been a pest to Atleti the past couple of seasons while with Almería.
Manzano somewhat controversially left off an eye-opening group of footballers from the squad for this bout.
Not handed a train ticket to Valencia were fan favourite Koke, Jorge Pulido, Eduardo Salvio, Diego Godín, Sergio Asenjo and Pizzi.
Atleti supporters shouldn’t be too concerned however, as this is more a testament to the quality depth the club will rely on this season than anything else.
This should foster a healthy level of competition for each position, keeping our men motivated throughout the long campaign.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Joel, Courtois
Defenders: Antonio López, Filipe Luis, Sìlvio, Álvaro Domínguez, Perea, Miranda
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Tiago, Reyes, Arda Turan, Assunçao, Gabi, Juanfran, Diego
Forwards: Adrián, Falcao
Referee: José Luis González González
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