LaLiga’s first midweek round of the season kicked off Tuesday, as Valencia waxed Málaga 5-0 at Mestalla in a battle (of sorts) between Atlético Madrid’s past two domestic opponents. Atlético, however, face a tricky trip away to the Basque Country, where Athletic Bilbao await. After his men trained on Tuesday, Diego Simeone gave his thoughts on the fixture and his team’s start to the season.
“The team is growing, we’ve had a good start to the season,” Simeone said.
Atleti have scored only once in their last three games in all competitions, but they’ve kept three consecutive clean sheets and kicked off a new era on Saturday with a win over Málaga at Estadio Wanda Metropolitano. Opponents Athletic have conceded just once this season, but Simeone doesn’t see a defensive showdown happening at San Mamés.
“We have a partidazo [tomorrow],” the Argentine said. “[Athletic] are a very demanding rival.
“They always work hard, especially at home.”
Last season, Atlético drew 2-2 away Ernesto Valverde’s side before beating them 3-1 at the Vicente Calderón to end the season. Now coached by Cuco Ziganda, Athletic have pace to burn with Iker Muniani and Iñaki Williams, in addition to veteran attackers Aritz Aduriz and former Atleti great Raúl García. However, Simeone has never been dealt a defeat at the new San Mamés — the mattress makers have won four times in Bilbao since 2013, with league wins in three consecutive seasons before last term’s draw. Atleti also eliminated Athletic from the 2013/14 Copa del Rey with a 2-1 win at their stadium.
Cholo looks set to rotate on Wednesday, as José Giménez returns to the side — likely as the right back.
Marca: Simeone planning more rotations for Athletic on Wednesday. Giménez is set to start at right back, Carrasco and Gaitán on the wings.— NEW STADIUM ALERT (@intothecalderon) September 19, 2017
“It’s [rotation] improved the level of competition within the team,” he explained. “[Players like] Lucas, Thomas, Gaitán and Vietto have raised their level.”
Finally, when asked about the somewhat-controversial defacing of Hugo Sánchez’s Walk of Legends plaque, Simeone offered a trademark response:
Thoughts on tomorrow’s tilt? Please leave a comment below!