Atlético Madrid and FC Astana face each other on Tuesday night in the fourth round of the UEFA Champions League group stage. Los Colchoneros currently sit on six points along with Benfica, who they share the top spot in the group with. Astana currently only have one point, which came via a draw with Galatasaray.
Diego Simeone has highlighted the importance of this game in his press conference and his team must take advantage of the clash between Benfica and Galatasaray in order to put away his Group C competition. Three points on Tuesday evening will be vital to a top place finish and an easier draw in the next round of the Champions League.
The Kazakhstan capital's time difference and low temperatures have resulted in a special schedule being implemented for the tie. Astana sit six hours ahead of GMT and so the game will take place at 3pm instead of the usual kick-off time of 7.45.
With this kind of game, it is customary to play the game earlier in the day to avoid the drop in temperature that coincides with the loss of daylight. This is the case, for example, with games that take place in Russia and Ukraine, whose teams regularly play in the Champions League.
This problematic schedule may cause a high number of Atletico fans (this humble servant too) to miss their beloved Atleti due to its clash with working hours. The eight hour trip to Astana means only a core group of fans have made the trip.
Kazakstan welcome los Rojiblancos with temperatures of -11ºC (12ºF) after a journey of more than seven hours. Although it seems that the cold will not be a problem, at least for the 90 minutes that really matter to Atletico. Astana FC have a modern stadium with heating under the grass and a retractable roof that allows you to completely close when conditions become too harsh. The staff can check the status of the artificial turf and the squad were lucky to train in the more "pleasant" temperature of 10ºC / 50ºF during yesterday afternoon's session.
Stoilov, Astana's coach, declared at his press conference -- possibly jokingly, but we're not sure -- that they may leave the stadium´s roof open to hinder his opposition. Atleti will have to battle the elements but Cholo has already recognized that artificial turf is not an excuse: "We have to play football and not look beyond that".
Despite being a decisive match, and with Astana having a full compliment of players, there could be some changes in the Colchoneros starting lineup. Gabi or Tiago, two of the players with the most minutes in Atletico colours this season, could be replaced by Saul Niguez. The canterano has taken advantage of every opportunity he has been afforded this year and enjoys playing in central positions, which allows him to attack the opponent's area and deploy his physicality.
In addition, according to Mundo Deportivo reports of training on Monday afternoon, Fernando Torres would start instead of Jackson Martinez. It could be a good opportunity for El Niño to get his 100th goal in an Atletico Madrid jersey.
Oliver Torres could also be given the nod along with Guilherme Siquiera and Stefan Savic as this is a good opportunity to improve their match sharpness and test their mentality in a different environment.
In: Oblak, Moyá, Juanfran, Godín, Giménez, Savic, Lucas, Siqueira, Filipe Luis, Gámez, Tiago, Gabi, Thomas, Saúl, Koke, Óliver, Carrasco, Correa, Griezmann, Jackson and Torres.
Out: Correa (paternity permission) and Luciano Vietto (injury).