Atletico Madrid face, possibly, the toughest task that will confront them for the remainder of the first half of the season. The Calderon will sell out in what is possibly the most attractive game of matchday 15. Both teams are in a rich vein of form and it is sure to be a passionate affair between the two sides.
The team from the Basque country are currently sitting in 7th position and have only one absentee from their entire squad, San Jose, who got a red in the last game against Malaga. In addition, Ernesto Valverde decided to give weekly starters a rest for their midweek Europea League game, so they will come to the Calderon with plenty of energy and full of fettle.
Aritz Aduriz and Raul Garcia form a power partnership that could trouble even the likes of Diego Godin in aerial duels. Aduriz is Athletic Club's top scorer with ten goals in 14 league appearances while Raul Garcia has three goals and five assists in the same number of games. There is also the pace of Inaki Willians, who is sure to cause Atletico's defensive line all kinds of problems.
Meanwhile, Atleti will aim to take advantage of the final score at the Camp Nou as Deportivo salvaged a late draw having trailed by two goals deep into the final minutes of play. os rojiblancos could draw level on points with the leaders of La Liga if they can snatch a win. Atletico have collected five wins in a row without conceding a goal in any of those games.
Raul Garcia back at home
The fixture has a clear protagonist, a historical player like Raul Garcia returns to the Calderon. He is a former Atletico player with the most games played in European and played on the stage for nearly eight years with Atleti. Simeone made it clear at his press conference that Raul will get the best possible reception, as Cholo says "Our support is grateful to people who left a mark on the team and it will be a special moment for him. He deserves it [a good reception] for everything he gave on the field and in the locker room."
Raul was always the kind of player you wanted to have on your team and teams certainly suffer when they face off against him. The attacker said, in an interview with Marca, "On the field there are no friends and it is best they know. I'm a competitive person, I go there now as a rival and I want to win..."
Furthermore, he said he had to "make the decision with your head, because if it had been guided by the heart, I would have never left Atletico."
Lisbon XI remain the same
Trying to get another victory, Cholo could send out the same players who achieved such an important win in Lisbon last Tuesday. Savic, who had a great performance, makes Simeone's job more difficult as the choice between him and Jose Gimenez becomes less clear each week. The young Uruguayan, however, could return to form a defensive line with his compatriot Godin and Juanfran and Filipe Luis on the wings.
In theory, Vietto should start for the second straight game at the top of the Rojiblancos attack, but it would not be surprising if Simeone opts for Fernando Torres so he can help the defenders face the might of the Basque team in aerial duels.
The canterano's trio (Gabi, Saul, Koke) are still going strong in midfield and we will have to wait and see what position Simeone chooses for each of them. In Lisbon, in the first half, we saw Gabi occupying the gap left by Tiago, while Saul played in the space just ahead of him and Koke further forward.
Possible XI: Oblak; Juanfran, Giménez (?), Godín, Filipe Luis; Saúl, Gabi, Koke; Griezmann, Carrasco, Vietto(?).
In: Oblak, Moyá, Godín, Giménez, Savic, Filipe Luis, Juanfran, Gámez, Tiago, Thomas, Saúl, Gabi, Koke, Óliver, Carrasco, Correa, Griezmann, Luciano Vietto and Torres.
Out: Lucas, Siqueira, (Tactical), Jackson and Tiago (injury).