As the Europa League group stage match against Rennes approaches, Atlético fans are slowly poking their heads back out of their shells after the nightmare in Barcelona.
Though the spirit of this post is to try to look past the debacle at the Camp Nou, lingering questions remain about the weekend’s aftermath.
Our players went into the match conceding that Barça would largely dominate possession and that we would have to be smart with the ball whenever it managed to get to us.
However, despite coming out to the pitch confidently and hitting the post early on, all our plans went horribly askew after a mistake by defender Luis Amaranto Perea led to a Blaugrana goal.
The Colombian misplayed a cross that sailed over his head, and could only watch in horror as striker David Villa capitalised on his error.
Rojiblanco forward Adrián López felt his team-mates put their arms down in defeat after that early strike.
“Going to the Camp Nou is difficult for any opponent,” Adrián told Atlético’s official site.
“If you come out and Barça score a quick goal, everything gets very hard. That’s what happened. They scored a quick goal on us and we did not react.”
Tiago admitted that although “the team went in with the hope of achieving something, it’s very difficult to take the ball away from them.”
Complicating matters further was Lionel Messi’s supernatural abilities being out on full display Saturday evening.
The rest is history (we hope).
Los Rojiblancos will want to do a whole lot less watching and aimless chasing against their Ligue 1 opponents, and must be mindful of their counter-attack threat.
What’s up with Manzano’s rotations?
The Colchonero faithful have praised the quality depth on the team put together for this campaign, but Saturday proved that all parts of the squad aren’t exactly interchangeable.
The vast majority of fans were displeased with coach Gregorio Manzano’s decision to bench Alvaro Dominguez, Filipe Luis and Arda Turan, who were heavily involved in the club’s previous two triumphant outings.
The decision to not roll out Filipe from the start of proceedings was perhaps the biggest head-scratcher, especially considering Valencia left back Jérémy Mathieu had successfully exploited the Culés’ right flank in the midweek draw at Mestalla.
While Manzano assured that he would deploy “our best players” for the clash in Rennes, fans will be wary of more surprises by the manager.
According to MARCA, Assunçao will start in place of Mario Suárez, while both Adrián and Radamel Falcao will feature up top at kick off.
The coach will choose between Arda and Reyes to complete the attacking trident.
Joining Paulo in midfield will either be Diego and Tiago, while Gabi will reportedly appear in the starting XI again.
As we reported in our match preview, Antonio López, starter against Barcelona, has been left off the match selection and Sílvio was ruled out once again because of his nagging groin injury, leaving Perea and Filipe as our only available full backs.
Defender Diego Godín will return to the bench to make way for Domínguez, who will pair up with Miranda.
The central defenders had previously partnered up in our back-to-back shutout victories over Racing and Sporting.
Indisputable starter Thibaut Courtois, who told reporters Wednesday that “Barcelona is forgotten” and “if we win in Rennes our confidence will be bolstered”, will mind the goal.
Will the squad bounce back from the humiliation?
Manzano’s men will put their five-game win streak in UEFA play on the line against Rennes, and will hope to show no lasting damage when they take the field.
“The team has already left the match against Barcelona aside and we are thinking about the one on Thursday in France,” said Adrián earlier in the week.
“We are working hard and we know that it will be a difficult game in Rennes but we will be going for the three points.”
A victory in France can go a long way towards building momentum for Sunday, when we host direct rivals Sevilla in Liga action.
Los Nervionenses have the advantage of being well-rested as they failed to qualify for European competition this season, and will have had a week of preparation ahead of their visit to the Calderón.