Match Preview and Team News
Fourth placed Atletico Madrid travel to fourth from bottom Zaragoza in Saturday's only other La Liga fixture…
The home side slipped dangerously close to the relegation zone after losing to bottom club Levante last weekend; proving to be the final nail in the coffin for coach Javier Irureta who resigned the following morning.
Jabo's six games in charge at Zaragoza had bought about just one win and four defeats and he leaves a side looking very low on confidence that has shipped ten goals in their last four games, while scoring just five. Diego Milito hasn't scored in over a month.
Manolo Villanova, formerly of second division Huesca, takes over as Zaragoza's fourth coach this season and will be looking to get back to basics with a side that was expected to qualify for Europe at the start of the season.
Villanova has suggested that he will start by addressing Zaragoza's defensive frailties - no side has concede more goals apart from lowly Levante - and that might mean sacrificing a striker to provide an extra screen in midfield. An ageing Ayala and the erratic Francisco Pavón and Sergio Fernández need all the help they can get: The Zaragoza defense conceded four goals when they last met Atletico back in October
In contrast with Zaragoza, the visitors go in to tonight's match still on a high after last weekends 4-2 win over Barcelona at the Vicente Calderon.
Prior to that match Atleti boss Javier Aguirre had also been under pressure after winning just four La Liga games this year and crashing out of both the Copa del Rey and the UEFA cup.
Atletico sit in fourth place and hold a slender two point advantage over Espanyol for the all important Champions League spot. Their league position does not tell the whole truth however: Atleti continue to look weak defensively and Kun Aguero's outstanding individual performance last weekend lit up an otherwise weak team display.
Confidence may prove to be decisive in this match and perhaps therefore hands Atletico the upper hand. As Aguero said
"Beating Barcelona was important for us after a bad run of form. A few poor results and our exit from the Copa del Rey and UEFA Cup had left us all a little bit down. But luckily we got a big lift from that win. The team have even more confidence now and we need to go out and play the same way again on Saturday. We are in good shape, we know what we want, and I am sure we are going to finish third or fourth in the league at the end of the season."
Prediction: That positivity in the Atletico camp makes them slight favorites to pick up an away win - but don't rule out the impact that a new coach will have upon the home side.
Sergio Fernandez, David Generelo, Luis Carlos Cuartero and Pablo Aimar are all out injured for Zaragoza.
Carlos Diogo and Peter Luccin both return from suspension and are included in Villanova's first squad - as is Matuzalem who returns after a lengthy injury lay off.
If Villanova does drop a forward in favour of a 4-1-4-1 formation, then it is likely that Diego Milito will occupy the lone striker role with Ricardo Oliveira starting on the bench.
Aside from the long term injured absentees Giorgios Seitaridis and Thiago Motta, Aguirre has no new injury concerns, or suspensions, and will probably start with the same side that beat Barcelona last weekend.