Following Barcelona’s 4-0 routing of Real Valladolid and Real Madrid 1-3 late win against Espanyol, the pressure is on Atletico Madrid to keep a three-way title race alive for La Liga fans this season.
They are coming off a 0-2 loss at the hands of Villarreal, where Geronimo Rulli’s exploits kept Diego Simeone’s men out of the game for 90 minutes.
Up next is Valencia at the Mestalla, which can cause even more heartache for Atletico. Nahuel Molina picked up a red card in injury time vs Villarreal and will not be travelling with the team.
Renan Lodi’s loan move to Nottingham Forest has been confirmed, which means he is not a part of the squad list either. In fact, Simeone will travel with four natural defenders in his team – Jose Gimenez, Felipe, Mario Hermoso, and Reinildo.
That said, Saul, Carrasco, Axel Witsel and Marcos Llorente are more than capable of covering the backline.
Geoffrey Kondogbia was part of the squad list in both games so far this season, but did not get the chance to grace the pitch yet. He has been included in the list alongside fellow central midfielders Koke, Rodrigo de Paul and Thomas Lemar.
The squad list for Valencia vs Atleti 📋 pic.twitter.com/1LOoVYLhzX— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) August 29, 2022
Atletico Madrid midfielder on the derby against Real Madrid: “Very difficult to beat them”
Following a 1-1 draw in their Champions League opener against Lazio, Atletico Madrid will shift all their attention to La Liga, as they brace themselves for the derby against Real Madrid this weekend.
Heading into this game, Atleti midfielder Marcos Llorente spoke about Real Madrid’s quality and Atletico Madrid’s chances of squeezing all three points from this iconic derby.
Llorente on Madrid derby
“The sensations are good. The team is very good, the other day we played a great game despite ending up drawing. I really think that the team did a great job that must be maintained for this match,” Llorente said in an interview with Diario AS.
When asked whether or not Real Madrid being tagged as favourites could aid Atleti, the midfielder said, “Honestly, it neither motivates me nor demotivates me. We simply have to do what we work on during the week, what the coach asks of us.”
Llorente stressed the importance of the game, adding, “It is a great rival we have in front of us, they are having a very good start to the season and that motivates me and everyone to try to play a good game.”
“Real Madrid is a great club, they have great players and it is very difficult to beat them. I think we have competed, we have also achieved several draws, but in the end, either you go out one hundred percent and do things very, very well or it is difficult to beat them,” he added.
A former member of the Real Madrid youth academy, Llorente joined Atletico Madrid in 2019. Since then, he has racked up over 150 competitive appearances for Los Colchoneros.
Llorente, though, said he feels no sense of vindication when he performs well against his former team.
“No. In the end, it’s been many years since I left there and I’m at Atlético. Perhaps in the first years, those types of feelings and sensations can arise, but today they no longer do,” he said.
Llorente on Vinicius, Koke & Bellingham
The Atletico Madrid star went on to talk about other aspects of the game, including the fact that his team had one less player every time they faced Real Madrid last season.
“I have zero worries. These are things that are not in our remit, that escape our hands. We play football, the referees referee and those who have to decide decide,” he said.
Llorente, in fact, said that the return of Koke could be a real boost for Atleti. “It is always good that Koke is with us, both on the field and in the day-to-day life of the game,” he said.
“Beyond the grass. The support he gives, the advice he gives us, his experience. it is always important to have him and it is great news that he is already training with us,” he added.
Talking about the absence of Vinicius Junior and the form of Jude Bellingham, Llorente said, “Well, you have to be careful with everyone. All Real Madrid players are very good and can make a difference at any moment of the game. Bellingham is having a great start and we have to take that into account and be very focused.”
Finally, Marcos Llorente put out a message for all the Atletico Madrid fans, claiming their support ahead of this crucial encounter this weekend.
“It will be a full house as always. We don’t have to tell them anything, they know the importance of this match for Atlético, we know that they never fail, they are always supporting us and we count on them,” he said.