ATLÉTICO v ESPANYOL – Sunday, 11am
Three years ago Diego Simeone was roaring Espanyol on in this fixture. I mean ROARING. Glued to his television in Argentina he knew that Gregorio Manazano was on the verge of being sacked and the he was next in line. Espanyol gave Atlético a good rogering, Manzano’s team lost the next one limply and Simeone took over just in time for Christmas. A shedload of trophies, a Champions League final and consecutive wins at the Bernabú later Atlético fans have reason to be thankful [part three] to Espanyol.
However, today, Simeone is roaring AT his players.
It’s a Messianic micro-climate at Atleti. Players believe 110%, GIVE 110% or they can kiss his loyalty [and their place in the team goodbye]. Last time out they were pumped [for fifteen minutes] at Valencia but thereafter played well, might have drawn – but didn’t. In Messianic football environments – under Mourinho, under Guardiola, under Luis Enrique … under Simeone – international breaks are to be feared and hated. Not just for injury, nor tiredness/jet-lag. But because players relax. They see international team mates, they shrug off the harness of club responsibility and often it takes them a week or so to: ‘get in character’ again. [Copyright ® Jules Winfield, our man in Inglewood]
So when he didn’t like Atleti’s training intensity this week their volatile Argentinian leader ripped into them. “Your national teams matter **** all to me. “ANYONE I feel isn’t showing enough attitude and intensity will be dropped, no matter who it is!”
Means it too. So here’s your dilemma. In picking a result which is more likely a) he’s hammered them as a precautionary measure based on the fifteen dozy minutes in Valencia and nearly two weeks away on international duty or b) there’s a serious problem and Espanyol have a serious shout of an upset?
Atleti keeper Miguel Angel Moyà admitted yesterday: “In the dressing room here they’ve warned me that Espanyol’s a team we traditionally find very hard to beat”.
I bet on a). Espanyol are beginning to show stamina and character, Kiko Casilla is in a sweet spot and Sergio Garcia always responds to big games like this. But the champions to edge it, possibly 2-1. Right time for Raúl Garcia and Arda to come to the party.
- Atletico Madrid 1/3, Espanyol 10/1, Draw 7/2: Bet Now
DEPORTIVO v VALENCIA – Sunday, 4pm
And on the subject of times gone by….. In 1992 Nuno Espirito Santo met a disco manager in Porto. Name of Mendes, Jorge Mendes. Licensed to sell drinks then. Players now. Four years later Nuno become Mendes’ first client, Depo signed him … and after a decent career here Nuno is – still a client of the, now, most powerful agent in the world, coach of Valencia and about to inflict damage on poor old Depo.
Paco Alcácer can’t stop scoring or making, Valencia play with energy and fluency, Los Che haven’t lost here since 2003 – six wins and two draws making up that record. André Gomes trained apart over the last couple of days but should be fit to emphasize his importance in midfield again. Depo have a decent sized injury list, are rock bottom and defeat could, feasibly, mean ‘Adios’ for Victor Fernandez. If Valencia wish to fulfil their no1 aim of being in the Champions League next season this MUST be an automatic three points for Nuno’s boys. Rodrigo, Alcácer both look like banker scorers but Los Che have ten different players, defence, midfield and attack, who’ve scored in La Liga. Take your pick.
- Deportivo 10/3, Valencia 5/6, Draw 5/2: Bet Now