Saturday 21:00. Sky sports
In what is undoubtedly the game of the weekend, two of La Liga’s potential challengers go head to head. Atletico Madrid host Valencia on Saturday evening in a match that will be seen as a measure of both club’s progress this season.
For Atletico Madrid the match represents Javier Aguirre’s first competitive home fixture in front of an expectant Vicente Calderon. The Mexican will need to ensure his side remain focused against a Valencia side led by Quique Sanchez Flores who has drawn on the previous four occasions that one of his teams has played there.
The home crowd have every right to be optimistic about the season ahead after Atletico’s massive investment this summer and will be particularly eager to see Aguero, their most expensive ever teenager make his home debut. The Argentine wonder kid has recovered from a muscle injury he picked up in the week but is likely to start on the bench, with Aguirre opting to start with Torres and Mista in attack.
Unfortunately for Aguirre, in the 15 days since the opening day victory at the Sardinero, his side has suffered a few injury setbacks and a number of players face late tests. One of those, Pablo, was outstanding against Racing and Aguirre will be praying that he is fit enough take his place in defence alongside Perea. Valera is likely to replace Seitaridis who is missing through suspension, whilst Pernia will return to the side in place of Antonio Lopez. Maxi Rodriguez and Galletti are both available after recovering from injuries and Maniche is named in the squad for the first time. Costinha and Luccin, however, will most probably start in the centre of midfield.
Valencia will face their first real test of the season following on from their opening day win and will be looking for a moral victory over a side with whom they should, at the very least, be challenging with for a European place. Quique Sanchez Flores will have to do without Albelda who suffered a broken cheekbone playing for Spain in midweek. Joaquin will also have to wait a little while longer to make his debut, after only having taken part in two training sessions with his new team mates; he has been omitted from the squad.
In midfield and defence, Flores must make some tough choices in the absence of Albelda. Will he move Albiol into midfield and put Ayala into the side for the first time since their bitter dispute? Or, will he play Marchena in midfield? If so, Ayala could still make the side at the expense of David Navarro.
Valencia will also be without Baraja and Del Horno through injury whilst Tavano and Hugo Viana have been left out altogether. There is good news for Miguel, however, who returns to the squad after recovering from his injury.
Valencia will seek to exploit Morientes' aerial threat in attack and Perea's ability to cope with the rejuvenated front man will be key to the outcome. A very difficult game to predict and last season’s 0-0 score line could well be repeated. Aguirre’s teams are always disciplined and determined to give little away, as the game against Racing proved, whilst Valencia are strong defensively and look to attack on the counter. The home side might have the edge but a draw is likely.