Four finals left. This time, Málaga will attempt to down Atlético Madrid at the Calderón as the race for La Liga continues. Almost nothing changed in the development of the race on Wednesday, where all three candidates won. Perhaps the biggest winner was Barcelona, who continues to lead the classification and, because they reduced the remaining matches, increased their chances of winning a second straight title.
But at the Calderón on Saturday, Atleti will be set on keeping pace with Barça and gaining a measure of revenge. Javi Gracia’s managed to win (1-0) against Atlético in the reverse fixture in December at La Rosaleda. To get an idea of the magnitude of this achievement, Los Colchoneros are the best away side in La Liga, with a club record-tying 13 victories and 40 points this season. The Andalusian side raised a hard match from the beginning and a goal by Charles in the 87th minute allowed them to take the three points. Carlos Kameni, Boka and Uche among others will not be available for Gracia, who included in his call for the game the same players who managed a draw against Rayo Vallecano in the last match day.
"Lucas has no fear"
Diego Simeone expressed as usual his impressions about the game in the press conference.
"I imagine a full stadium," Simeone said. "I am conscious that is a very important game regarding a tremendously beautiful end of the season. We have to be ready for this."
The manager also praised Gracia’s work with mid-table Málaga, as he did months ago.
"It will be a hard game. Firstly, because of the coach they have. Secondly because they are very good competitors. They work fine, like a block; it is a strong team when they try to make intense matches. In addition, in this situation, the season is ending and against an important team, each player wants to make a great game."
Just a few minutes before, Atlético received some bad news about Diego Godín; the influential center back will miss at least this game and Wednesday’s tilt against Bayern Munich.
"We lose hierarchy, as he is an important man with the group, but we have boys in the squad that do it fine; now we have Giménez available. We hope he recovers as soon and good as possible."
Simeone also talked about Lucas and his characteristics.
"I saw important things in him, he has worked with us for long, he had the luck and difficulty of having great central defenders by his side. He always worked hard and wanted to improve and the most important detail: he has no fear, beyond he plays good or bad, that is the best thing. That is what counts."
Savic trained at lower pace
According to Mundo Deportivo, Stefan Savic could not complete the final training session of his team at the same rate as his mates. He made part of the training on the sidelines but his gestures indicated that he suffered discomfort and he was seen chatting with the physiotherapists. Despite this fact, the Montenegrin could enter Simeone’s call for the game, although it is unknown if he will be in the starting XI or if we will see a Lucas-Giménez pairing. On the flanks there will be no surprises; Juanfran and Filipe (in a spectacular state of form) will be responsible for them.
Gabi, Saúl and Koke incognita seem immovable and we will see if they are accompanied by a wing or central midfielder. Simeone opted for Thomas given the absence of Gabi in Bilbao, although sometimes he prefers to choose a more offensive tactical system with Yannick Carrasco for home games. If he chooses the first option, in principle, Augusto would be more likely to get the start.
Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torres will be the forwards. The Frenchman and the #9 are submerged in individual goalscoring streaks, accumulating 9 goals in 6 games. Their cooperation has managed to turn the difficulties of Atletico to a mere anecdote about the old days.
Possible XI: Oblak; Juanfran, Savic, Lucas, Filipe Luis; Augusto, Gabi, Saúl, Koke; Griezmann, Torres.
In: Oblak, Moyá, Giménez, Savic, Lucas, Juanfran, Gámez, Augusto, Gabi, Koke, Saúl, Thomas, Carrasco, Correa, Griezmann, Vietto.
Out: Kranevitter, Óliver (technical), Godín and Tiago (injury).