The Saudi Arabia quartet — Barcelona, Valencia, Atlético Madrid and Supercopa champions Real Madrid — return to domestic cup action this week, and Atlético will take on Segunda B side Cultural y Deportiva Leonesa.
Cultural are second in its Segunda B group and thus in a promotion playoff position. Center forward Dioni is second in the group with 10 league goals to his name, and goalkeeper Leandro Montagud has kept eight clean sheets — only Rubén Miño of leaders Logroñés has recorded more. The club spent one season in LaLiga back in 1955/56 and are in the Round of 32 for the third time in four years.
Atlético have progressed from this round each year since a shock elimination versus Albacete in 2011 — the final match played before Diego Simeone’s appointment as coach. Simeone will likely turn once more to Antonio Adán as his cup keeper, and looks ready to start top prospects Sergio Camello and Manu Sánchez. Among the Rojiblancos who will not be with the squad are Koke, José Giménez, Kieran Trippier and Diego Costa (who has begun training again).
Possible XI Adán; Arias, Felipe, Hermoso, Manu Sánchez; Herrera, Llorente, Félix, Saúl; Camello, Vitolo.
Prediction 1-1 (Atlético win on penalties). I can’t really see Atleti losing here, but this feels like the start of another downturn for this inconsistent side. Save for Felipe Monteiro, the back five will have some serious rust. Marcos Llorente is a walking yellow card and has not played with Héctor Herrera yet, while João Félix is running low on gas but looks set to start on a wing (which he hasn’t done in months). Cultural have not lost at home this season, conceding just six goals between Copa and Segunda B play.
My record on the season 15-13
Date Jan. 23, 2020
Location Estadio Reino de León, Castile and Leon, Spain
Kickoff time 9:00 p.m. CET, 8:00 p.m. GMT, 3:00 p.m. EST, 12:00 p.m. PST