Atlético Madrid’s first competitive game in six weeks will see the Colchoneros travel to Galicia for cup game with fourth-tier Arenteiro.
“The Copa del Rey is wonderful. It allows everyone to compete well, and (an upset) is always a possibility,” Diego Simeone told the media on Wednesday. “What matters is your desire and what you can show on the field ... (Arenteiro) play in a 4-4-2, they work well in all the games they play, and they have desire.”
Atlético will need to start showing something different compared to the season’s opening months. Though Atleti’s final game before the FIFA World Cup break was a cozy 2-0 cup win in Soria over Almazán, the weeks that preceded it were chaotic. The Rojiblancos are in a real fight to finish in LaLiga’s top four again, and a shocking Champions League group stage elimination means the club will reduce the squad size and make sales in an effort to balance accounts.
Simeone — who is taking charge of his 600th Atlético game on Thursday — confirmed during the press conference that forward Matheus Cunha is on his way to Premier League side Wolves. But the coach expressed hope that wantaway João Félix would reassert himself as a key player as long he wears red and white.
João did not train on Tuesday or Wednesday due to pharyngitis and was ruled out early Thursday.
“I want Atlético to win, that is my only focus. Then, what has to happen will happen. No one is essential and things will have to be as they are,” Simeone said.
“João is very important. He had a good World Cup, and he participated in goals. Hopefully we can have the World Cup version of João, and that player can represent our team. I hope we give him the serenity and joy to show what he learned in the World Cup, where he was very good.”
El Cholo hinted that several Atlético B players will feature in Thursday’s squad after several gave a good account of themselves in a friendly win over second-tier Ponferradina last week. Neither Antoine Griezmann nor Atleti’s Argentinian players are available for this contest owing to their participation in last weekend’s World Cup final, but it is anticipated that the Rojiblanco representatives eliminated prior to the semifinal round will have minutes to regain match sharpness.
“I’m looking within the club, at the guys from the B team who excite me. They are young and in a lower division, but their coaching staff is working well,” Simeone said. “Bringing up boys from the academy is the best thing that can happen to me.”
Date Dec. 22, 2022
Location Estadio de Espiñedo, Ourense, Galicia, Spain
Kickoff time 9:00 p.m. CET, 8:00 p.m. GMT, 3:00 p.m. EST, 12:00 p.m. PST
Available TV/streaming ESPN+ (United States), Movistar+ (Spain)