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SD Almazán-Atlético de Madrid: The Copa del Rey begins

A good run in the domestic cup — if not a winning run — has to begin here.

RCD Mallorca v Atletico de Madrid - LaLiga Santander
Axel Witsel and Yannick Carrasco are going to the World Cup with Belgium next week.
Photo by Cristian Trujillo/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Atlético Madrid hit the road again for the final game before the midseason World Cup. The Colchoneros are visiting fifth-tier Almazán in the Copa del Rey, a competition that represents their only real shot at silverware this season.

Atlético’s Copa del Rey exploits in recent years have been disappointing (to say the least) and have bordered on parody (to say the most). Diego Simeone’s team exited to third-tier Cultural Leonesa in the competition’s 2019/20 edition and to third-tier Cornellà in the 2020/21 edition.

Last season, Atlético made it to the round of 16 for the first time since the 2018/19 cup campaign, but Real Sociedad advanced at Atleti’s expense via a comfortable 2-0 win at Reale Arena.

Real Sociedad v Atletico Madrid - Spanish Copa del Rey
A downbeat Simeone during Atlético’s Copa del Rey loss to Real Sociedad, Jan. 19, 2022.
Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Simeone’s side last qualified for a Copa del Rey semifinal in 2017 and has not played in the cup final since winning it over Real Madrid in 2013. Considering Atlético’s Champions League failure and declining results in the league, the Copa has become the Rojiblancos’ primary objective for the remainder of the season, and getting off to a good start on Saturday is imperative.

“We are very excited (about the Cup’s return), and we’re hoping to play a good game tomorrow,” Simeone told the media on Friday. “Then, a break will come, (and) that will come in handy.”

SD Almazán play in the town of Almazán, situated roughly 120 miles northeast of Madrid in the Soria province. The team typically plays its games at the 2,000-seat Estadio La Arboleda, but RFEF (the Spanish football federation) last month decided to move this match to nearby CD Numancia’s Nuevo Estadio Los Pajaritos, claiming La Arboleda was not equipped to host an early-round cup tie. Atleti last played at this stadium in November 2008, drawing 1-1 with Numancia when both teams played in the top flight.

RCD Mallorca v Atletico de Madrid - LaLiga Santander
Marcos Llorente should have minutes when Atlético visit Almazán on Saturday.
Photo by Cristian Trujillo/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

For this match, Simeone is expected to pick a strong 11 in a bid to end Atlético’s five-game winless run. Spain coach Luis Enrique on Friday confirmed he will take Koke, Marcos Llorente, and Álvaro Morata to the World Cup in Qatar, but only the latter (due to a hip injury) will miss Saturday’s contest.

Yannick Carrasco and Sergio Reguilón are not expected to play, either. Geoffrey Kondogbia (muscle pull) and Thomas Lemar (unspecified) were also left out of Simeone’s squad.

“The feeling I have is that (the players) understand the need to play a good game, and they understand not to think about anything other than solving tomorrow’s game,” Simeone said. “Those who have to play (Saturday) will have time to focus on the World Cup.”

Date Nov. 12, 2022

Location Nuevo Estadio Los Pajaritos, Soria, Castile and León

Kickoff time 10:00 p.m. CET, 9:00 p.m. GMT, 4:00 p.m. EST, 1:00 p.m. PST

Available TV/streaming ESPN+ (United States), TVE La 1 (Spain)