Atlético de Madrid are back in action after a longer-than-anticipated break, and Los Colchoneros will resume their season at Valencia in matchday five of LaLiga.
It has been nearly three weeks since Atlético Madrid (2-0-1, 6 points) last played a competitive match. Diego Simeone’s side was due to play Sevilla at the Cívitas Metropolitano two weekends ago — but due to the threat of historic rainfall, that game was postponed until December.
Atlético have not returned recharged or fully healthy from the FIFA break. Rodrigo de Paul flew back from Argentina duty with a thigh injury and will miss at least the next two games, while Çağlar Söyüncü is battling groin discomfort picked up with Turkey. A return date for Memphis (hamstring) is still unknown.
Koke is almost recovered from a hamstring strain but is unlikely to play against Valencia (2-0-2, 6 points). José Giménez will make his return from injury either on Saturday or next Tuesday against Lazio in the Champions League.
“All teams deal with injuries,” Simeone said during Friday’s press conference. “We have many players in the national teams, and when we encounter situations like this, we focus on the players who can be there.”
¡Listos para medirnos al Valencia! pic.twitter.com/Cp2E5bNbmD— Atlético de Madrid (@Atleti) September 15, 2023
Atleti will face a Valencia team that features only three players over the age of 27. Under Rubén Baraja, appointed head coach seven months ago, Los Che found a way to survive in LaLiga last season. It’s early days this season, but young players such as Javi Guerra (20), Diego López (21), and André Almeida (23) have already impressed under Baraja’s guidance.
“I always look at the positive things,” Simeone said. “At Valencia, there's the presence of Baraja, a club man. He's done very well in a complicated moment and is working with a lot of young players. With Baraja’s presence, we’ll find an enthusiastic and energetic opponent, always a very complicated team to face at their stadium. We’ll try to take the game to where we want it.”
Under Simeone, Atlético have won or drawn its past eight trips to Mestalla dating to October 2014 — the last time Los Rojiblancos lost to Valencia at all. Ahead of this fixture, El Cholo has trained with an 11 that features César Azpilicueta at right wing-back as the coach weighs up whether to rest Nahuel Molina after a busy international break. Rodrigo Riquelme has trained at left wing-back, while Pablo Barrios — voted player of the month for August — will anchor the midfield once again.
Antoine Griezmann will lead the line for Atlético in another meeting with one of his favorite victims. Griezmann scored the winning goal on Atleti’s previous trip to Mestalla, and the Frenchman has 12 career goals against Valencia — eight of them as a Rojiblanco. He needs 15 more goals to become the club's all-time top scorer, surpassing Luis Aragonés and his 172 strikes.
La para el encuentro ante el Valencia. pic.twitter.com/UOlJmjwTNk— Atlético de Madrid (@Atleti) September 15, 2023
Date Sept. 16, 2023
Location Mestalla, València
Kickoff time 4:15 p.m. CEST, 3:15 p.m. BST, 10:15 a.m. ET, 7:15 a.m. PT