Atletico Madrid v Athletic Bilbao preview

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Posted Sunday, January 30, 2011 by PA

Atletico Madrid v Athletic Bilbao previewAtletico Madrid coach Quique Sanchez Flores has been boosted by the return of Sergio Aguero, Jose Antonio Reyes and Tiago for the visit of Athletic Bilbao as the capital club look to get their season back on track.

Atletico have won just one of their seven competitive games in 2011 and have lost four of their last five, a run that has seen them knocked out of the Copa del Rey and slip to seventh in the Primera Division standings.

Having also seen the defence of their Europa League title come to a premature end earlier this season, Atletico`s goal for the season now is to try and earn themselves a Champions League berth.

Currently, Atletico are 10 points behind in-form Valencia and the final Champions League place, which means they need to improve considerably during the final 18 rounds of the season to finish in the top four.

Sanchez Flores, who has found himself under increasing pressure, is not giving up hope though, saying: "Every season there is always a team that excels in the second half of the season and gets 40 or 42 points, why can`t it be Atletico?

"We want to be the team with the most points in the second half."

The return after injury of top scorer Aguero, who has missed the last two matches, and Reyes and Tiago should help Atletico`s cause, although they face a tough game tomorrow against an Athletic side who are two points above Sanchez Flores` men in sixth place.

Atletico goalkeeper David De Gea said of the clash: "It's an important match given the form of the team. It's a complicated situation, but a victory would return us to the top spots, which is where we should be."

Athletic leap-frogged over Atletico in the table following back-to-back wins over Racing Santander 2-1 and Hercules 3-0 in their last two matches.

With Atletico out of sorts, Athletic could increase their advantage over one of their main rivals for a European position if they can win at the Vicente Calderon tomorrow, although coach Joaquin Caparros is not getting carried away.

He said: "This game is important because it`s the most immediate game. What worth would it be to win this match if in the following match we lose to Sporting? We are well-placed in the table, but next week who knows. There`s still a long way to go."

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