Atlético host progressively-more-bitter rivals Sevilla at the Vicente Calderón on Sunday at 18:00 CET, just days after a mediocre showing in midweek Europa League action.
Up for grabs are three crucial points in a match that can be deemed a ‘six-pointer’ given the likely implications the result will have in determining who ends up with a ticket to Champions League play at the end of the season.
Los Rojiblancos will want to improve on the form they displayed in France Thursday evening, a night in which nothing was clicking for Atleti except for the wobbly knees of a nervous Perea.
But, it could’ve been worse, as super-subs Salvio and Juanfran hooked up late for the equaliser, securing a critical away point in the European competition against a solid Rennes side.
Gregorio Manzano’s men must immediately shift their focus back to La Liga, where they currently sit in eighth place, just outside the European spots for next year.
Manzano, who coached Sevilla to a fifth place finish last year, said in Saturday’s pre-game press conference, “We’re playing for the most important three points we have disputed until now.”
He continued: “We hope to stay on the same line as the last games at home.”
Vice-captain Alvaro Dominguez echoed his manager’s words.
“On Sunday there’s a lot to play for,” he said.
“The team is aware of this and goes into the match against Sevilla treating it like a final because we want to be up there, and Sevilla have the same goals as us.”
Colombian defender Luis Amaranto Perea, who took a lot of heat following a dreadful performance at right back on Thursday less than a week after committing a series of miscues in the bloodbath at the Camp Nou, was left off the match selection.
The decision to leave Perea out of the squad feels more like a calling out of the defender by his coach, rather than a rotational break.
Let’s hope the rest serves Amaranto both physically and mentally, as he is currently the only backup to Sílvio. The Portuguese has been dealing with a groin injury throughout the first couple of weeks of the campaign, but returns to the squad for this clash.
It can be deduced from Manzano’s decision to leave Perea out that the training staff is confident about Sílvio’s fitness, however, a report by AS suggests surgery is being considered which would keep the 24-year-old out for approximately a month and a half.
The most sensible approach would be to try to put off an operation until January, when a replacement can be signed while Sílvio recovers.
Pizzi, Pulido, Koke, Assunçao and Asenjo will join Perea in the stands, while Antonio López and Joel return to the match selection.
Marcelino García Toral’s men were able to shut down Valencia last week at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, handing los Che their first loss of the season.
Despite being left down to nine men at one point following the dismissals of Piotr Trochowski and then Julien Escudé, Sevilla remain undefeated following their 1-0 triumph.
Los Nervionenses had luck on their side, as Éver Banega failed to convert a penalty in the game.
Reports earlier in the week suggested lethal striker Alvaro Negredo was a doubt for the trip to Madrid, but the Spain international traveled with his team-mates and will be a game-time decision.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Joel, Courtois
Defenders: Diego Godín, Antonio López, Filipe Luis, Sílvio, Álvaro Domínguez, Miranda
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Tiago, Salvio, Reyes, Arda, Gabi, Juanfran, Diego
Forwards: Adrián, Falcao
Sevilla match selection:
Goalkeepers: Palop, Javi Varas
Defenders: Fazio, Fernando Navarro, Cáceres, Alexis, Spahic, Luna, Coke
Midfielders: Jesús Navas, Medel, Perotti, Rakitic, Campaña, Armenteros, Tom de Mul
Forwards: Negredo, Kanouté, Manu del Moral
Referee: Alberto Undiano Mallenco
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