Los Colchoneros will be aiming to regain some consistency by beating their Andalucian guests...
Two stylish wins from their opening two fixtures had some pundits raving over the possibility that Atletico Madrid could challenge the Barcelona-Real Madrid duopoly at the summit of the Primera Division, but since being beaten by Barca 2-1 at home, los Colchoneros have reverted back into their old inconsistent ways.
In the five league matches following that encounter, Atleti have won only twice, though they have admittedly had a tough run of games that have included fixtures against Valencia, Sevilla and Villarreal. Nevertheless, having topped the table earlier this season, los Rojiblancos now find themselves eighth and playing catch-up with regard to the European spots.
Some confidence will have been taken from an emphatic 5-0 midweek success over Las Palmas in the Copa del Rey. The capital unit picked apart their Canary Island opponents away from home, cruising to a 5-0 success courtesy of goals from Sergio Aguero, who hit a brace, Diego Godin, Diego Costa and Fran Merida.
Barring a complete catastrophe in the Vicente Calderon during the second leg, los Colchoneros have booked their spot in the last 16, allowing them to focus instead on Liga and European commitments. Under Quique Sanchez Flores, Atleti have built a reputation as being a cup side, able to produce the goods on the one-off occcasion but unable to rouse themselves for more mundane tasks. Against Almeria at the weekend, they must seek to shed that image.
Readying For A Scrap
Almeria are presently in their fourth successive season of top flight football, but already the signs suggest that they will have a hard task on their hands to make it five in a row. Since finishing eighth in their formative campaign in 2007-08 there’s been a steady decline in the fortunes of the Estadio Mediterraneo club, but this is shaping up to be their first big battle against the drop.
Through eight games of the season, the Andalucian outfit have managed to pick up only one victory, which came against bottom club Deportivo La Coruna. Admittedly Juanma Lillo’s side have proven difficult to beat, going down on only three occasions, but the fixture list has been relatively kind to them in the opening weeks of the campaign and they would expect to have more than seven points to their credit currently.
Around the festive period Almeria will find the going particularly tough, so points in the bag are essential to prevent them falling into a real scrap. Ahead of an encounter against a potentially explosive Atleti side, there is little room for optimism, though they did earn a 2-2 draw at the Vicente Calderon at the beginning of last term, when los Colchoneros did not have their eye on the ball.
Victory away from home in the Copa del Rey will have boosted Almeria’s spirits somewhat. They claimed a 3-2 success against Real Sociedad, recovering bravely from two goals down to carry an advantage into the second leg. If such fighting spirit can be replicated at the weekend, perhaps they have a chance to earn just a third Liga victory since mid-March.
Alvaro Dominguez has returned to training with the first team squad but isn’t expected back in the matchday panel unit next weekend’s derby against Real Madrid. Juan Valera, on the other hand, has started kicking a ball once again.
Baltasar Rigo, Henok Goitom and Santi Acasiete were all overlooked in midweek but may well be given the opportunity to feature at the weekend. Juanma Lillo hasn’t given reports of any fresh injury problems since the weekend, though Hernan Pellerano and Miguel Angel Nieto are problems.