Atlético Madrid travel to Valencia on Wednesday seeking a first Copa del Rey quarterfinal appearance in five years. But the Colchoneros will have to take down Levante, not having beaten the Valencian side at its Ciutat de València stadium since 2017.
Atlético’s struggles against Levante are well-known. The Granotas drew or won four consecutive league meetings with Atleti prior to suffering relegation last season. The Rojiblancos have won only seven of 19 all-time visits to Levante dating to 1963.
The only previous Copa del Rey meeting between these two teams took place in 2006. Atlético needed a penalty shootout to advance to the last 16 in that edition of the cup.
“We come from playing a good game (against Almería),” Diego Simeone told the media on Tuesday. “(We are) generating enough chances to win games and with peace of mind and confidence in our players, the goals will come.”
Javi Calleja’s Levante are third in LaLiga Smartbank, with only three losses from 23 games so far and a plus-11 goal difference that ranks second in the competition. Levante have not lost since Calleja’s arrival in October and have already put one top division side to the sword in this season’s Copa del Rey — the Valencian side won a five-goal thriller against Getafe earlier this month to advance to the round of 16.
Levante have never won the Copa del Rey but played in a semifinal two seasons ago, losing to eventual runners-up Athletic Club.
“The Cup match is against a rival that is doing things extraordinarily well with this coach, they are in a position to return to the top flight,” Simeone said. “It’s a good team. We will take the game where we believe we can do damage.”
Rodrigo de Paul has not played since the World Cup final last month, amid rumors of a falling-out with Simeone and questions over his professionalism. But El Cholo confirmed in Tuesday’s presser that de Paul will start at the Ciutat de València, while Yannick Carrasco will miss out through a muscle injury that kept him out of Sunday’s draw at Almería. Center-back José Giménez is also not expected to play as he continues recovering from yet another muscle strain.
“Since we returned from the World Cup, our play has been better, (we’re) continuously growing,” Simeone said. “We weren’t able to draw or beat Barça, we didn’t have the forcefulness to convert the chances against Almería, but I see the team improving. Hopefully we have that necessary forcefulness to win games, because it’s needed in football.”
¡Estos son los jugadores rojiblancos citados para el Levante-Atleti! pic.twitter.com/dkIV2hdTs4— Atlético de Madrid (@Atleti) January 18, 2023
Date Jan. 18, 2023
Location Ciutat de València, Valencia
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), La 1 (Spain)