Cardassar’s remarkable story begins a new chapter on Wednesday night, when the Tercera club plays host to Atlético Madrid in the Copa del Rey.
Los Colchoneros should be highly motivated after a derby loss to Real Madrid and an absolutely shocking Copa exit in last season’s competition. But though Wednesday’s opponents have just one league win this season, they have been through the wringer and lived to tell about it.
Floods devastated this quiet community on Mallorca in 2018, and after successfully rebuilding its stadium and infrastructure at large, Cardassar achieved back-to-back promotions. Miquel Angel Tomas’ side weren’t really supposed to be here — and yet, they stand 90 minutes from producing an upset beyond upsets.
After the loss at Cultural Leonesa, Diego Simeone isn’t about to take chances.
“We looked at last season’s game with enthusiasm. It was not a good game,” Simeone said Tuesday. “The one-game cup tie marks the stark reality we always talk about — the importance of forcefulness.”
Cholo may rest some stars, but this island match will be key for players like Šime Vrsaljko (who needs to prove he’s healthy enough to deputize for Kieran Trippier) and Vitolo (who needs to show he can contribute meaningfully to a team challenging for the title). Geoffrey Kondogbia, who has put in good work off the bench, is expected to make his first start. Lucas Torreira likely will make his third. These players are important with Héctor Herrera’s hamstring set to keep him out a month.
“There are players who are waiting to have those minutes and each one will take advantage of it in the best way,” Simeone said.
“When Atlético de Madrid plays, you have to represent it in the best possible way.”
Simeone also had some nice — if not coy — words for Ivo Grbić, who has yet to play this season but has a golden opportunity to displace Jan Oblak for a day.
“He is working with great enthusiasm,” the coach said. “Tomorrow may be an opportunity for him. We will decide when training is over.”
Date Dec. 16, 2020
Location Es Moleter, Sant Llorenç des Cardassar, Mallorca, Spain
Kickoff time 7:00 p.m. CET, 6:00 p.m. GMT, 1:00 p.m. EST, 10:00 a.m. PST
Available TV/streaming ESPN+ (United States)