There is an argument to be made that La Liga has never been as open as it is this year. Barcelona are struggling with injuries and have been severely hampered by the transfer (or registration) ban placed upon them until January, while Real Madrid seem to be a team trying to find their identity under new manager Rafa Benitez. You also have Valencia, Sevilla and Atletico now operating amongst Europe's elite in the Champions League and you sense there is a real chance for one of them to apply real pressure on the hegemony that Barcelona and Real Madrid have held over the league.
Fernando Torres, better than most, understands the lie of the land and has pointed out how Atletico are keen to wrap up their qualification for the next round of the Champions League with an emphasis on finishing atop their group. A loss to Benfica in the last group game has resulted in a readjustment of focus but want to get back on track Wednesday night against FC Astana at the Vicente Calderon.
Speaking ahead of the game, Torres said, "We didn't expect to lose against Benfica. That means we are in need of points."
"Our short-term aim is to progress to the next round. We also want to finish top of our group.
"We know that in order to do that, we need to clinch six points in our next two games against Astana before taking on Benfica and Galatasaray in our final group games."
Astana travel to the Calderon with one eye on a Sunday domestic showdown against Kairat Almaty. They have just four games left and lie five points behind the domestic leaders.
"Now we have to play a decisive match against Kairat Almaty," said Astana coach Stanimir Stoilov on their official website
"We will send all the power to win in Almaty. If we win, we will have chances for the championship. If not - I think it will be very difficult."
In Group C's other game, Benfica play Galatasaray in Turkey. Benfica sit on six point with Atletico three behind them and the other two teams accumulating just one point in their first two games.