Atlético’s fine run brings international rewards

Four Calderón players in latest Roja squad as Liga prepares for shutdown

Madrid -
Diego Costa, still Spain's nearly man.
Diego Costa, still Spain's nearly man.JESUS AGUILERA (DIARIO AS)

The final round of matches before the international break sees Atlético at home to Celta Vigo as Diego Simeone’s side attempts to extend its record start to the season into October. The visitor has struggled to pick up points on the road this season and Atlético was been beaten just three times at the Calderón last season.

The southern Madrid side’s form has not gone unnoticed at international level: Vicente del Bosque has called up Mario Suárez, Koke, Juanfran and David Villa for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers, the first time Atlético has had four representatives in the national team since 2006. It might have been five, but Brazilian-Spanish striker Diego Costa still awaits clearance to play for his adopted country.

Rayo takes on Real Sociedad at the Vallecas Stadium as it tries to reverse a woeful run of six straight losses. Paco Jémez was a tough center-back during his playing career and a Spain international, but is probably topping the betting charts for the managerial chop at the moment. In defending his decision not to start returning pair Alejandro Gálvez and Jonathan Viera, who were sent off in the 4-1 loss at Sevilla, Jémez remarked: “There are always players who think they have a bigger one than the coach, but here the biggest is mine, beyond a doubt.”

Some players think they have a bigger one than the coach, but here the biggest is mine"

Stirring stuff, but will it be enough to get Rayo back on track? Real is also in a form of mini-crisis, as it tends to be most weeks one way or another, and Karim Benzema is the man most in the firing line. Carlo Ancelotti said ahead of the club’s trip to Levante, against which it has slipped up in recent seasons, that Álvaro Morata may be given the striker’s role. “Our problem isn’t in attack, it’s at the back; we’ve conceded a lot of goals” the Italian coach stated after being asked about his mercurial French striker’s apparent lack of joie de vivre.

Barcelona, which has also maintained a 100-percent record so far, hosts struggler Valladolid while Athletic welcomes Valencia to the San Mamés.

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