Los Colchoneros and los Leones meet as they both try to grapple for a place in the top five...Quality, But Little Consistency
Atletico Madrid were initially founded by a group of Basque fans who longed for their days of involvement with Athletic Bilbao, but the cordial relationship enjoyed between the clubs in the early 20th century is now long forgotten and the pair go to war on Sunday wrestling over sixth position in the Primera Division standings.
Los Colchoneros’ week has been dominated by events off the field. Real Madrid and Chelsea were both associated with huge bids for Argentine striker Sergio Aguero, but both were reportedly rejected by the capital side, who also had to turn down an approach from the Blues over defender Diego Godin too.
Additionally, coach Quique Sanchez Flores is now under the most intense of scrutiny. A 1-0 reverse away to Sporting de Gijon last weekend has left los Rojiblancos a disappointing 10 points adrift from the Champions League spots, and unless there is a dramatic improvement in their fortunes over the next four months, Atleti will not mingle with the continent’s best next term.
Consistency has been a chronic problem for the Vicente Calderon side all season. A positive start to the term was perhaps blown a little out of proportion, and with more than half of the campaign passed, los Colchoneros have failed to better the two-game winning streak they achieved at the outset.
Atleti have only lost successive matches once this term, and in front of their fiery home support will expect to take points against the team the capital side essentially emerged as an off-shoot of.
Well On Track
Athletic Bilbao’s form has been rather similar to that of Atletico Madrid in that their inconsistency has been their only constant over the course of the campaign. Los Leones lie seventh in the table with nine wins to their credit, though they have only enjoyed back-to-back victories on two occasions.
Last Monday night against Hercules, an easy 3-0 success at home gave Joaquin Caparros’ men a triumph to follow-up a positive 2-1 result against Racing Santander, so the Basque side are chasing three successive wins for the first time this season in Madrid.
“We are well on track,” Caparros smiled after goals from Javi Martinez, Fernando Llorente and Iker Muniain sent los Herculanos home from the north empty handed. “We have taken one step further and we will go to compete against Atletico.”
In just the second week of the campaign, the Bilbao club were defeated 2-1 at San Mames by los Colchoneros, so revenge is on the cards to some extent. Having lost to Atleti at the Vicente Calderon last spring, los Leones will be aware that a difficult challenge stands between them and a first hat-trick of Primera Division wins in nearly 18 months.
Sergio Aguero and Tiago have both resumed training and are available, in principle, for the weekend’s fixture. Jose Antonio Reyes has also overcome an ankle sprain.
Raul Garcia has a groin injury, but was suspended in any case, while Mario Suarez continues to fight a hamstring problem.
Urko Vera has joined up with the squad and could be involved at the Vicente Calderon.
Fernando Amorebieta has exercised with the squad, but it’s not thought he’ll play at the weekend. Ibai Gomez and Jon Aurtenetxe are long-term issues.