Atletico Madrid and Sevilla face off this Sunday, in what has been billed as the battle for La Liga’s third place.
Back-to-back League wins have propelled Atleti to within just five points of third-placed Sevilla, although build-up to the Vicente Calderon showdown has been overshadowed by rumours Diego Simeone had a hidden agenda with Fernando Torres.
“Torres’ lack of appearances? I have absolutely no problems with anyone in the squad,” clarified the Coach at a Press conference.
“If not, it would seem that every player that doesn’t play doesn’t because I have a problem with them.
“Juanfran helped us win five trophies, yet no-one’s said anything about his absence.
“I always look for what I can do to help the team reach their objectives in the best way possible.
“Both Fernando and Gameiro are well, but we’ll decide [on Sunday]. One will start and another will come on later, that’s for sure.
“Sampaoli? His numbers speak for themselves, especially in the League. He’s a great Coach, who’s allowed Sevilla to fight with Madrid and Barcelona, at least until now.”
Despite Simeone’s appraisal of Sampaoli, the latter admitted he was still struggling to come to terms with Sevilla’s Champions League elimination, amidst continued speculation regarding his future.
“I felt a very great pain that didn’t allow me to sleep,” added the former Chile boss.
“Still, life goes on. Everyone will think that we’re in a slump, but I don’t think it’ll be like that.
“I dreamt that it won’t be so. I’ve grown fond of this shirt and any defeat hurts me.
“We were at the top level of football in the Champions League, it was a painful defeat, but I don’t think it was a footballing failure.
“Now we have Atletico, who are as complicated as a Madrid or Barcelona.”
Los Nervionenses will not be able to call upon Atleti-owned pair Matias Kranevitter and Luciano Vietto, while centre-back Mathieu Lenglet is on standby in the event Nico Pareja fails to prove his fitness in time.
Atletico Madrid (probable): Oblak; Juanfran, Savic, Godín, Filipe; Koke, Saul, Gabi, Carrasco; Gameiro, Griezmann
Injuries/suspensions: Augusto (I), Tiago (I)
Sevilla (probable): Sergio Rico; Mercado, Rami, Lenglet; Mariano, N’Zonzi, Iborra, Escudero; Nasri, Jovetic, Vitolo
Injuries/suspensions: Kranevitter, Vietto (parent club), Carlos (I), Tremoulinas (I), Krohn-Dehli (I)
Referee: Gil Manzano
Form guide: Atleti (W W D L W) Sevilla (D D W W W)
Previous meeting: Sevilla 1-0 Atleti
Kick-off time: 15:15 GMT/16:15 CET