While there is death in the Europa League, there is life in La Liga, the competition "in the fans' hearts", as Simeone puts it. There is a certain truth in that; back to the old routine, to what you know, but only if you win silverware is there anything resembling a celebration. At the end of the day, trophies are what count and the semi-final of the Copa del Rey is looming. 'El Cholo' decided to rotate in Moscow, but in this league outing he will field his strongest eleven... and what will be, will be.
His old friend Javier Aguirre awaits, a trainer that has managed to lift Espanyol out of the doldrums and make them dream of Europe. Since he arrived, they have the third best record in La Liga. The home fans, though, will be able to take comfort from the fact that Atleti will see their lungs, brain and heart return in the form of Gabi, Arda and Diego Costa, rested for the trip to Russia. What's more, at that back they will be further strengthened by the return of Godín and Courtois, while Falcao is also showing signs of recovery in attack.
A 'perico' threat
Espanyol will push on with the defensive formation that has served them so well up to now. In midfield there is Verdú (a fine player who has also come under the Atleti radar), and the forward line looks likely to see Stuani continue on the right, Simao on the opposite wing and Sergio Garciá up front. Should Atleti's mind distractedly wander over to the cup they could be made to pay.