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Atlético host Eibar with both sides looking to get back on track

Second placed Atlético Madrid host Eibar, chasing a European spot, in this Saturday's 4pm (CET) game in LaLiga

Atlético preparing for the Eibar match.
Sergio BarrenecheaEFE

Atlético host Eibar on Saturday at 4pm, with both sides coming into the match on the back of losses: Atleti losing narrowly 2-1 in a feisty affair last weekend at the Camp Nou, which saw them finish with 9 men after Filipe Luis and Godín were sent off. Both will be missing against Eibar after their red cards, and although it doesn’t affect this match Atleti’s morale has been boosted by the decision to reduce Filipe Luis’ ban to to just one match, from the original three for his studs-up challenge on Leo Messi.

Eibar meanwhile were on the end of a somewhat shock defeat to Málaga (1-2) given the Basque side’s home form, that being only their third loss at Ipurua in LaLiga this season.

Atleti will be looking to bounce back quickly to keep in the running in the title race. After their defeat to Barcelona they are now three points behind the Catalans, who also have a game in hand. Eibar meanwhile are still, somewhat crazily given the size of the club and its budget, in the hunt for a European spot. They are in 8th just one point away from the Europa League sixth spot.

Simeone, during his pre-match press conference.
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Simeone, during his pre-match press conference.Sergio BarrenecheaEFE

With the suspensions Simeone has had to go for a makeshift defence: Gámez, Giménez, Lucas and Saúl. Savic would have been expected to be in, but he left training holding his thigh on Wednesday and despite the best efforts of the club he won't be fit. Saúl, who has experience in central defence at Rayo, steps in. 

Eibar coach Mendilibar, speaking in his pre-match press conference, had little time for Atleti’s woes: “They’re crying because they’re missing players, the sanctions they’ve got… they’re having a good cry”. “For us of course, there’s nothing like that happening”, he finished sarcastically. For Mendilibar his side are going up against a “serious candidate for the title”.

The Eibar coach said he was taking a decent group of players to play a really good set of footballers, and in his opinion “the ones who aren’t there don’t matter”.

Atleti coach Simeone, also speaking in his pre-match press conference, said Eibar were one of the “surprises” of the season, and that coach Mendilibar was doing a fantastic job there. The Argentinean however refused to be drawn on the debate surrounding striker Borja Bastón – the player is on loan at Eibar from Atleti and won’t be playing tomorrow after the Basque club decided not to pay the 150,000 euros required by the loan contract if he's to play at the Calderón.

“I told the lad the club would pay half and he could pay the other: he’s not paying, so he’s not playing”, joked Eibar coach Mendilibar in his pre-match press conference, given on Thursday. Despite the coach's humour the loss of Bastón, the top scoring Spaniard in LaLiga, on 15 goals, is nothing less than a blow for Eibar.

Borja Bastón celebrates his goal against Espanyol on match-day 19.
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Borja Bastón celebrates his goal against Espanyol on match-day 19.Javier EtxezarretaEFE

Another player who won’t be playing on Saturday is Jackson Martínez, with Atleti having made a surprise 42 million euro sale of the striker to Chinese club Evergrande at the start of the week.

Simeone said he was responsible for the failure of the player to make it at Atleti, having come in from Porto in the summer. “I’m the most responsible for this failure. He didn’t have the luck or the chance to give us the best of himself and I feel part of that. It’s my failure that Jackson hasn’t played”. That said Simeone won’t be changing his methods: “I won’t change my way of playing”.

In terms of playing styles Mendilibar was asked about the praise his Eibar side had received for their valiant approach to playing the bigger sides. Mendilibar laughed at that: “But we’ve lost, no? We haven’t beaten any of the big sides. I’d rather have a poorer image, but pick up points”, he concluded.