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Atlético de Madrid-Elche CF: LaLiga is back

Will last week’s win in the Copa propel Atlético toward a winning run?

CD Arenteiro v Atletico de Madrid - Copa Del Rey Photo by Jose Manuel Alvarez/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Diego Simeone has taken the blame for Atlético Madrid’s underwhelming campaign as his Colchoneros prepare to face Elche at the Cívitas Metropolitano on Thursday.

“We have a great squad, with four players who played in the World Cup final, maybe the one who is not giving his all is the coach,” Simeone told the media on Wednesday. “I am the one who has to improve so that the players can raise their level in LaLiga. These are more or less the same names that won LaLiga, except for (Kieran) Trippier and (Luis) Suárez.

“The manager is the one who is failing, more than anything else.”

Atlético (7-3-4, 24 points) returned to action last week with a 3-1 win over fourth-tier Arenteiro in the Copa del Rey and would like nothing more than to restart LaLiga on the right foot by beating Pablo Machín’s Elche (0-4-10, 4 points) to vault back into the Champions League places.

Elche CF v Leeds United - Friendly Game
Pablo Machin, head coach of Elche CF looks on during the friendly match between Elche CF and Leeds United at Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero on December 08, 2022 in Elche, Spain.
Photo by Silvestre Szpylma/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Atleti have won eight consecutive meetings with Elche since 2013. The Franjiverdes have not defeated the Rojiblancos in the top flight of Spanish football since 1985.

“Atlético are a rival that will demand (a lot) from us, but we will demand of them too,” Machín said Wednesday. “We hope to show improvement little by little, but given the emergencies (i.e. Elche sitting 20th), it must be as soon as possible.”

SD Ponferradina v Atletico de Madrid Photo by Jose Manuel Alvarez/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Simeone has worked throughout the week with a 5-3-2 formation that features Mario Hermoso alongside José Giménez and Stefan Savić in defense. Jan Oblak missed training Wednesday through illness but has been included in the squad, but the indisposed Axel Witsel has missed out. Rodrigo de Paul is nursing a hamstring problem from the World Cup and is unavailable for Thursday’s game as well.

Youngster Pablo Barrios (pictured at right) appears set to make the first league start of his career in midfield, while Antoine Griezmann and João Félix look likely to be the forward pair on Thursday night. João’s situation at the club remains in flux — agent Jorge Mendes has reportedly been offering the player to English clubs on an initial loan, but Atlético prefer a permanent transfer and its resultant immediate cash injection.

“What matters to me is the team, and João is important to the team,” Simeone said. “If he transmits to us what we saw in the World Cup, he will be very important. He has the conditions and the talent. The team needs his qualities.”

Date Dec. 29, 2022

Location Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano, Madrid

Kickoff time 9:30 p.m. CET, 8:30 p.m. GMT, 3:30 p.m. EST, 12:30 p.m. PST

Available TV/streaming ESPN+ (United States), Movistar+ (Spain), LaLiga TV (United Kingdom)