Atlético welcome Sporting Gijón to the Vicente Calderón on Wednesday in a midweek round of La Liga.
Despite two early setbacks in league action, los Rojiblancos have shown rare consistency, dominance of play, possession, solid defending and offensive prowess in the first weeks of their 2011/12 campaign.
In all official encounters this season, Atleti have tallied 16 goals in favour while only conceding two.
Against a watered down Racing Santander side on Sunday, we exploded for four goals en route to our sixth shutout in eight games.
Once again, the euphoria among the Colchonero faithful is palpable.
The hype surrounding the team is building.
Are we in store for another classic letdown, or is Gregorio Manzano’s Atlético the real deal?
“It pleases me that the people are happy, I don’t want to take away from their joy, but the matches have to be won on the field,” Manzano said in the pre-game press conference.
The Rojiblanco boss looks set to rotate players again on Wednesday, given our busy match schedule.
“If the performance level of the players that come in and out stays high, I think it’s convenient to continue with some rotations,” he said.
“There’s another game this weekend, we can’t forget about anyone, we have to use everybody.”
Unfortunately, one of our new sensations will not be available for this tie.
Diego was taken out at half time in our win over Racing with a minor muscle strain, and was left off the match selection for Wednesday.
“I will be able to determine if he will be available for the Camp Nou once he undergoes tests closer to the date,” said Manzano.
“It’s an important absence, but hopefully the team, now and always, will be above any one player.”
Juanfran, Diego Godín, Jorge Pulido and Tiago were left off the squad through tactical decision, while Sílvio returns from his groin injury.
Antonio López, Assunçao and Koke all made their way back into the selection for this round after not being included this past weekend.
In 2010/11, Atlético’s fixtures against Sporting served as documented proof of the club’s notorious split personality disorder.
In our league-opener last season we trounced Manuel Preciado’s men 4-0 at the Calderón, only to fall 1-0 at El Molinon in an eye-gougingly-ugly performance back in January.
This year, our first encounter against the Asturian outfit gives us an early chance to exorcise our demon of inconsistency.
A victory over Sporting would amount to three wins on the trot, a feat we haven’t accomplished since January of 2010 when we defeated Valladolid, Recreativo Huelva and, coincidentally, Sporting in succession.
Los Gijonenses sit dead last in the league standings without a single point to their name, sounding the alarm bells once again following a season in which the side narrowly avoided relegation.
They arrive in Madrid after losing their third consecutive match, a 1-0 home defeat to Valencia this past weekend.
According to a report by the Spanish EFE news agency, Preciado will travel to Madrid with all 23 players on his squad.
After Tuesday’s training session, the coach hinted he could roll out the same starting XI that took on Valencia.
“With previous rotations, we did not achieve good results so against Atlético Madrid, the same players will start,” he said.
“No one can doubt our commitment. We only need to translate our work throughout the week onto the playing field.”
The manager then took some shots at our history of inconsistency.
“Atlético have brought in a lot of good signings, but it’s hard to believe that a team without Forlán and Agüero is better,” he said.
“Traditionally, Atlético Madrid are a very irregular team, and last year they started off strongly only to fizzle out.”
Preciado did warn that his men must be “courageous” when they take on an attack that “still has monstrous potential”.
Manzano also had some words of caution for his side.
“Not too long ago Sporting were promoted, they have gone through rough times, but just when you think they’re dead, they rise up from the ashes and do well,” he said.
“I expect a well-organised Sporting, with intensity. Things will go bad for us if we don’t come out to the pitch focussed.
“We already had a surprise the first match week, and against these teams we can’t allow points to escape. We are obligated to win.”
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Courtois, Joel
Defenders: Antonio López, Filipe, Sìlvio, Domínguez, Perea, Miranda
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Salvio, Reyes, Arda, Assunção, Gabi, Koke
Forwards: Adrián, Falcao, Pizzi
Sporting match selection
Goalkeepers: Juan Pablo, Cuéllar
Defenders: Botía, Castro, Grégory, Hernández, Canella, Damián
Midfielders: Rivera, Carmelo, Ayoze, Eguren, Lora, Álvarez, De las Cuevas, Cases, León
Forwards: Bilić, Novo, Morán, Sangoy, Barral, Trejo
Referee: Eduardo Jesús Iturralde González
Don’t forget to submit your score over at our Prediction League section!