Atletico Madrid head to Mestalla to play a reenergized Valencia squad Sunday afternoon. Los Che lost its first four games, but have won back-to-back contests and appointed former Azzurri boss Cesare Prandelli to the dugout earlier this week. Despite the generally-held position that Valencia really are not what they once were, Atletico could be in for a more difficult game than anticipated, especially with international break looming.
Let’s take a shot at predicting the players Diego Simeone will select for the early kickoff:
GK: Jan Oblak
Seven clean sheets out of eight, two goals conceded on the season. It’s October 2. Yes, he starts.
The rest Simeone gave Juanfran against Sporting Gijon has paid off. The 31-year-old put in strong performances in Atletico’s two biggest games thus far and me be further buoyed by his exclusion from Julen Lopetegui’s Spain squad.
CB: Stefan Savic
An automatic selection with Jose Gimenez still recovering from a hamstring malady. Also because he’s really good.
CB: Diego Godin
Godin was a surprise inclusion to the squad yesterday, as it had been theorized that the pharaoh would be out through the international break with an ankle problem. However, he’s returned to training and it looks like he’ll be ready to start Sunday.
LB: Filipe Luis
Has to be the second or third name on the teamsheet. His form has been that superb.
RM: Saul Niguez
Would like to see a more attack-minded Saul on Sunday, but the canterano probably will be asked to press on the in-form Nani.
El capitan continues to highlight his value to an evolving Atletico as the tough-tackling ball-winner that Simeone craves. Gabi should get his chance to do what he does best against an uneven Valencia midfield.
Koke vs. Dani Parejo is really a matchup to watch - two of LaLiga’s best central midfielders.
LM: Yannick Carrasco
Carrasco has started to become a mainstay in Simeone’s XI - which is tough news for Nicolas Gaitan, who put in strong performances against Sporting and Deportivo. Further, YFC should be rewarded for his goal and strong performance against Bayern Munich in midweek, and he scored in this fixture last season.
FW: Antoine Griezmann
Five league goals already and looking to add to the tally. (Although chances are it won’t be from a spot kick.)
FW: Kevin Gameiro
All credit to Fernando Torres, who worked his tail off Wednesday, but the chances he missed against Bayern will likely see him back on the bench. Gameiro’s speed will present clear danger to a beleaguered Valencia back line which has yet to keep a clean sheet.