Atletico Madrid returned to training session on Monday (19 September) as they began preparations for crucial La Liga trip to Barcelona on Wednesday night. Manager Diego Simeone has no fresh injury concerns regarding the XI that beat Sporting Gijon 5-0 at the weekend, but Tiago Mendes and long-term absentees Alessio Cerci and Miguel Angel Moya remain sidelined.
Los Colchoneros had a slow start to the season following two disappointing draws against Alaves and Leganes. However, they have switched into top gear to secure three consecutive victories over Celta Vigo, PSV – in the Champions League – and Sporting.
Simeone surprised pundits on Saturday by deploying a very offensive line-up against Sporting, switching from his typical 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 with Kevin Gameiro, Antoine Griezmann, Yannick Ferreira Carrasco and Nico Gaitan all featuring in attack.
The decision paid off as Atletico thrashed the Asturian side 5-0 to move to the fourth position in La Liga, one point behind Barcelona and Las Palmas and four adrift of early pacesetters Real Madrid. Two goals from Antoine Griezmann and another from Gameiro put Atletico ahead in the first-half before Fernando Torres rounded off the victory with a brace off the bench.
However, it looks as if Simeone will bolster his midfield with an extra man for the trip to Barcelona.
The Argentine manager used a starting XI with two changes from the one that beat Sporting during Monday's training session, with Juanfran at right-back and Gabi taking the position of winger Gaitan to bulk up the middle of the park.
The introduction of the Spanish defender was widely expected as he was just resting against Sporting. The biggest change will be in the middle though as the inclusion of Gabi by Gaitan will see Atletico returning to a 4-3-3 variant, with either Koke or Saul playing as false wingers to give an extra impetus to the midfield. Meanwhile, Gameiro would remain as the number nine ahead of Torres despite the supersub appearance of the former Chelsea and Liverpool over the weekend.
Simeone, who has no fresh injury concerns, may still change his plans before the game as Atletico are still expected to have a training session on Tuesday before travelling to Barcelona.
Meanwhile, the Catalans have enjoyed the day off on Monday following their 5-1 victory over Leganes at the weekend.