1. With sequels generally being considered flops, are you looking forward to watching "When Costa met Atleti pt. 2"?
Haha! Yeah, there’s a lot of excitement surrounding Costa and his registration happening in a couple months. After spending years trying to find his replacement, Atleti went back to the well to reacquire their old stalwart, who since added two more 20-goal seasons and two more league titles to his resume. I’m a little nervous that after six months without playing he may not be up to speed the way he needs to be, but I’m still really excited to see how he gets on with Antoine Griezmann.
2. With Barça getting it's share of bad press when trying to sign Coutinho from LFC...do you have any problems with the manner in which Vitolo was signed?
I do, yeah. We don’t know the full story particularly from Vitolo’s perspective, but it very much seems as if he left Sevilla in the lurch after Atlético hesitated over completing the deal. Atleti turned what could have been a simple, amicable process into a complete mess that resulted in Sevilla taking (or trying to take) legal action. The pressure’s on the Canary Islander to step up when he arrives in January and prove that he made the right decision.
3. It's always tricky when comparing an ex with the next...but how does Wanda compare to Calderon? Does it still have that intimidating factor for the opposing side?
It doesn’t quite have that intimidation factor yet, but man, this is a beautiful stadium. The biggest concern has always been whether Atleti fans would embrace a stadium near the airport after five decades on the Manzanares; I don’t think everyone is on board just yet, but I think we’ll get there. Winning has a funny way of making controversy go away.
4. Onto the match! With your last league win against us being back in 2009-19, how do you see tomorrow's outcome go in your favor?
Diego Simeone always struggled against Luis Enrique, but he’s won 8 of his 11 meetings with Ernesto Valverde. Of course, he’s never met Valverde when he’s had Messi in his team, but there will be a determination not to let Messi and Barça own the Wanda Metropolitano like they owned the Calderón. I don’t see Atleti playing badly — the last Barça really socked them was in January 2015 — but they have to be incisive and decisive on the counterattack. Atleti should get chances and they have to be taken; if they don’t fall in love with defending, they can take points here.
5. Besides Griezmann, who does Valverde need to take into account when preparing tomorrow's match?
Watch for Thomas Partey. The Ghanaian is becoming a key cog in Simeone’s midfield. I expect him to start tomorrow, and the frequency with which he wins the ball and passes accurately out of midfield will decide if Atleti’s counterattacks can swing the game or not.
6. What's up with the tickets sales for the away fans for this match? Are Cules not welcome inside the Wanda Metropolitano?
There seems to have been quite a bit of miscommunication regarding the away ticket allotment. Barça claim Atleti reduced the number of tickets unexpectedly, but Atleti claim they made the same number of tickets available as they usually do for away fans. Perhaps Atleti couldn’t keep up with demand and quoted Calderón ticket figures to Barcelona. It’s very strange, but no away fans could definitely play to Atlético’s advantage!
7. Fill in the X in this sentence "This year Atleti will finish X in La Liga".
This year, Atleti will finish 3rd in La Liga.
8. Last question...will AM still manage to qualify for the knockout stage of the CL?!
I *think* so, but it’s a little complicated now. Atleti are being handed a gift by playing the worst team in the group twice in a row while Roma play Chelsea. It seems unlikely that Roma will take more than a point or two off Chelsea, let alone all six, which means Atleti will be in good shape with two wins over Qarabag. But, stranger things have happened...