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Preview: Atleti out to end Levante hoodoo

Three more points are required to keep the title challenge going

Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Two remaining finals. Only two games where Atlético will use up its options in an attempt to become La Liga champion for the second time in three years. The lads will have the challenge of focusing their thoughts and intensity away from Milan, waiting for a little help from Valencia and, even more, Espanyol. The three title contenders will play simultaneously as is standard in the penultimate league match days in Spain. Los Colchoneros, although facing an already relegated Levante, will have to banish their demons and get a first victory in a damned stadium since Diego Simeone became the coach. Espanyol will try to give Barça more trouble in the Catalan derby; Los Pericos have in their hands the chance to pull another Tamudazo and deny their rivals another league title. Meanwhile, Real Madrid hosts Valencia in the Bernabeu with some key absences: Gareth Bale, Dani Carvajal and Keylor Navas will be unavailable for Zidane the Che, who have (predictably) improved since the arrival of Pako Ayestarán. Atleti have reasons to hope and as we know, this team never stops believing.

Levante mathematical relegation was confirmed last week with a 3-1 loss against Málaga and they face their last top-flight game in the Ciutat de Valencia before playing in the Segunda División next year. Hence their only motivation for the fixture would be leaving some good feelings to their fans against one of the top La Liga teams. Jose Mari (five yellow cards), Orbán, Trujillo, Camarasa, Xumetra and Nabil Ghilas stayed out of the call for the game and will not be available for Rubi.

"We keep our enthusiasm to reach the last match day with options"

This is how Simeone responded in his press conference when asked about how his team will face the game against Levante:

"We have the imperative need of winning and from there start thinking in the next game," Simeone said. "What we know is what is up to us, what we have ahead and how to face it, intensely."

Regarding his opponent in the game the coach expressed: "The games against Levante have been always different. We have the challenge and a new opportunity to make a good game in that stadium."

In addition, the Argentine praised his players after they overtook Bayern Munich to reach the UEFA Champions final last Tuesday:

"I’m very proud of the whole group I work with," Simeone said. "There are seven boys staying in the club for some time who feels its values. We have the feeling of belonging in the place where we work. Those lads have influenced the rest a lot to understand that in Atlético, to play well is not enough".

Some minutes later the boss offered the call for the game where he included the whole squad. It’s become a usual routine for Simeone to name the entire team in these important late-season matches. Thus, Cholo will have to discard players before kick-off to reach the limit of 18.

Savic and Correa to start; Godín and Grizi to rest

According to Mundo Deportivo reports from Saturday morning training, Diego Godín and Antoine Griezmann could enjoy a rest in the Ciutat de Valencia. The rest of team could look very similar to the one Simeone chose to start at Allianz Arena on Tuesday.

The Uruguayan defender recently recovered from a muscular injury and only made his reappearance in the second leg of Champions League semifinals, so it may be a good idea to manage his minutes on the pitch. His replacement would be Stefan Savic, who has carried out some good performances since he overcame his own fitness troubles. Joséma Giménez would be his partner in central defense with Juanfran and Filipe Luís in the wings.

Regarding the Frenchman, he could have a break after playing almost every game this season. Also, if he were to receive a yellow card, he would miss the potential title-decider against Celta Vigo at the Calderón, so there are multiple reasons not to expect Griezmann in today’s XI. Ángel Correa could be his alternative and would accompany Fernando Torres in the attacking front. The Argentine forward has taken advantage of the minutes he has been allowed to play off the bench and will look forward to another opportunity to showcase his skills from kick-off. Remember, he completed the full 90 minutes for the first time in an Atleti shirt last week against Rayo Vallecano.

Possible XI: Oblak; Juanfran, Savic, Godín, Filipe Luís; Gabi, Augusto, Saúl, Koke; Correa, Torres.

Simeone´s squad

In: Oblak, Moyá, Godín, Giménez, Savic, Lucas, Filipe, Juanfran, Gámez, Tiago, Kranevitter, Augusto, Gabi, Koke, Saúl, Thomas, Óliver, Carrasco, Correa, Griezmann, Vietto, Torres.