Diego Simeone has vowed that Atletico Madrid will not take their visit of Valencia in La Liga on Sunday lightly. “Clearly it’s not just any game.”
Both teams head into the encounter at the Vicente Calderon separated by just a point, with the champions pipping their Los Che to third place, and the Coach was vocal in his praise of his side’s opponents at his pre-match Press conference.
“We’re still evaluating who to start because we can play with Raul García on the right, Koke through the middle and Gabi out wide,” he told reporters.
“Obviously, there’s the possibility of [Mario] Mandzukic-[Fernando] Torres, Raul [Jimenez]-Torres and Raul-Mandzukic.
“I still haven’t spoken to the players, so surely we will have our final teamtalk on Sunday lunchtime to resolve this situation.
“Mandzukic is very important to us. He’s a decisive player, who can create many dangerous situations in a number of ways.
“We consider him a key player for our team. He’s taken the competition up top very well.
“[On Antoine Griezmann’s absence], we believe the team must always compensate for any absences, so we hope to compensate in the best way with the ability and characteristics of other players.
“Clearly it’s not just any game. It’s a match between direct rivals, both of whom have competed since the season began. I don’t think of it as just one more game.
“We consider it a different game [to the others]. We’ll have to take the game to where we feel most comfortable.
“Our objective is to go game by game, try winning [them all] and do well. The aim of the club remains finishing third or fourth.
“[Valencia] are a very competitive team, who compared to last year have a huge number of points.
"It’s what we expected earlier in the season, when we said both Sevilla and Valencia would compete with us for third or fourth place.
“Valencia are an important team. They have players in the middle of the park with great vision and high workrates.
“Javi Fuego gives them lot of balance in the middle, and they have two wingers who almost play as forwards, such as [Pablo] Piatti, [Sofiane] Feghouli or Rodrigo [Moreno].
“They attack but make defensive sacrifices. That’s what made [Valencia] win four consecutive games.”