Primera Division: Top-of-the-table Atletico Madrid are seeking repeat result in Bilbao
Last Updated: 28/03/14 9:19pm
If Atletico Madrid want to stay top of the Primera Division for a second consecutive week, they must stage a repeat of a feat they achieved earlier in the year - winning at Athletic Bilbao.
Back in January Diego Simeone's side became the first team to beat the Basques at their new stadium San Mames Barria, winning a Copa del Rey tie 2-1. Only Espanyol have triumphed there since, and Simeone is well aware of the gravity of the task facing his team.
"I am expecting Athletic to be very tough opponents, who play great football, a team full of confidence that become even stronger at home, and with great supporters who always stick with them and push them forward," said the coach in a press conference.
"San Mames is a wonderful stage to play football at and obviously we'll need to put in a great performance, because we'll be up against a great team."
The coach sees similarities between his team and Ernesto Valverde's side, who are fourth in the Primera Division and fighting to get into the Champions League for the first time in 16 years.
"Athletic's season has been very similar to ours, when you think about how hard they have worked and the huge amount of points they have picked up," he said.
"They are fighting for fourth spot because they have great players, so we must pay attention and try to make the game go in a way that will suit us."
San Mames is a wonderful stage to play football at and obviously we'll need to put in a great performance, because we'll be up against a great team.
While Atletico are battling with Real Madrid and Barcelona to win their first league title in 18 years, they are also preparing for their first Champions League quarter-final tie in 17, away to Barca on Tuesday. However, Simeone would not say whether he would rotate his team for the matches, sticking loyal to his mantra of only looking forward to the next game.
To that end, he refused to enter a discussion about the title race, remarking: "Right now we only care about our game in Bilbao. In the last four or five games of the season, we will take that discussion more seriously."
With the exception of injured full-back Javier Manquillo, Simeone has a full squad to choose for the game in Bilbao, while Valverde's only fresh absentee is suspended midfielder Ander Herrera, which opens the door for Benat Etxebarria to make a return to the starting line-up for the first time since January.
January's Copa del Rey tie between the two sides was fiercely contested, but Athletic striker Aritz Aduriz played down suggestions his team would be out for revenge.
He told reporters: "We are very keen to hold onto fourth place and I think the mere fact we can get three more points and continue with our good run at home and profit from that are more than enough motives to have all the enthusiasm in the world to win the game."