Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone said he is not tempted to risk Arda Turan or Mario Suarez against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
Despite having concerns over how his team will set up in midfield and attack against Bilbao on Sunday, Simeone has left the Turkish winger and the Spanish defensive midfielder out of his squad for the La Liga fixture.
Simeone is concerned Atletico may be tired as they play their fifth game in just over two weeks but maintained it is more important for the likes of Turan (hamstring) and Suarez (knee) to fully recover than for the capital club to field their best team.
“What’s important is that players are OK when they return,” Simeone said on Saturday.
“If they’re carrying a knock, they can’t play to their best.
“We need players to be at their best.
“The time isn’t what matters; what matters is that they’re OK.
“The team suffers when players aren’t at 100 per cent.”
Both Atletico and Bilbao played on Thursday in the league but with their UEFA Champions League commitments, Simeone is convinced his team may be slightly more fatigued at the Estadio Vicente Calderon on Sunday.
The Argentine coach is well aware of the pressure on his side as they try to keep pace with leaders Barcelona, while also competing in Europe’s premier club competition.
Bilbao sit fifth ahead of their trip to Madrid, while Atletico are second, 10 points ahead of the Basque club, but Simeone believes the game will be a tough test for his players.
“It is going to be a hard match, especially because we are tired after the match against Granada,” Simeone said.
“We will need to make an extra effort, especially tactically, because Athletic (Bilbao) are showing this season that they are playing at a highly competitive level.
“Moreover, they are not playing in Europe so they will be less tired than us and they have more time to prepare for La Liga matches.”
In a boost for Atletico, Leo Baptistao is available for selection after recovering from an ankle problem.
After Barcelona’s 1-0 win over Espanyol on Friday, Atletico have dropped four points behind the reigning champions but will keep the pressure on the Catalan giants with victory over Bilbao, who they have beaten three times in their past four meetings.
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