Los Manos will attempt to worsen Atleti’s crisis...
The War Continues
At the winter break last season, Zaragoza looked a side dead and buried, consigned to the Segunda Division for at least one season after a poor start to a top flight campaign, yet they recovered impressively to dodge the drop. This term, they are attempting to perform a similar escape act and have started 2011 with a good deal of promise.
Over the course of their first seven Primera Division matches, they’ve earned four victories, not only steering them off the bottom of the table, but also away from the relegation zone, at least for the time being.
“We lost a battle but the war continues,” Mexican coach Javier Aguirre mused after last weekend’s 2-1 reverse against Hercules – only the second time since the turn of the year that los Manos have tasted defeat.
Aguirre, a former Atletico Madrid boss, may have taken his time to turn Zaragoza around, but the Aragon side have been taking positive strides in recent weeks, winning three of their last four home games. Injuries and suspensions offer problems that have to be overcome for the weekend, but this is a club used to rising to the most demanding of challenges when hope seems lost.
Quique Under Pressue
Atletico Madrid are a club on the verge of a full-blown crisis. Since the turn of the year, they’ve won only one Primera Division fixture, and worse, they’ve lost all of their last four games, scoring only one goal in the process. Coach Quique Sanchez Flores finds his head in a very precarious position, and another loss in Zaragoza could be the end.
At this stage in the 1999-2000 season, which so spectacularly ended in relegation for los Colchoneros, they had 29 points; this season they command only 30. Panic is starting to set into the Madrid outfit, and after a string of disappointments it’s little wonder their fans are so fraught with anxiety.
“We feel we have to win, we do not value the option of the coach not being with us, because he has given us two titles and although we have not done well, we have overcome adversity. Now we need to be closer together than ever,” club captain Antonio Lopez told the media.
“The team's image has not been all bad, but there is no use complaining and all we can do is to keep working to pull this off. To get around this, work, work, work, is what we need to be doing.”
Atleti certainly have quality in their ranks, but it has too frequently gone missing over the course of this campaign. January has seen the club stripped of more assets and as new signings struggle to bed in, the noxious atmosphere surrounding the team is only serving to poison them further.
Angel Lafita will be out for several weeks with a knee problem, and stunting the creativity of the home side further is a suspension to Ander Herrera. Ivan Obradovic has overcome a head knock and will play without a problem.
David de Gea and Sergio Aguero have both had training ground scares this week, but both will be fine for the weekend. Filipe will probably continue to miss out.
Diego Godin is banned after being dismissed last weekend, and Alvaro Dominguez and Elias have both been tipped for starting roles.