UEFA.com works better on other browsers
For the best possible experience, we recommend using Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

Injuries no excuse for Aguirre's Atlético

Coach Javier Aguirre insists Club Atlético de Madrid will still be going all out for victory against Olympique de Marseille despite being hit by a series of injuries ahead of their first home game in the competition for eleven years.

Atlético coach Javier Aguirre
Atlético coach Javier Aguirre ©Getty Images

Just when things seemed to be going smoothly for Club Atlético de Madrid, Javier Aguirre's side have been hit by a spate of injuries ahead of their UEFA Champions League Group D encounter with Olympique de Marseille at the Vicente Calderón.

A fortnight ago Atlético enjoyed a wonderful return to the competition as their 3-0 victory at PSV Eindhoven raised great expectations, capping a fine display of flowing football. But after a bright start in Europe and a positive opening in the Liga, Atlético suffered a double blow at the weekend: they were defeated 1-0 at home by Sevilla FC and lost defenders Giourkas Seitaridis and Pablo Ibáñez to injury, that pair joining Diego Forlán, Simão and Maniche in the treatment room. With so many players missing, Atlético are relieved to see John Heitinga return to fitness while Maxi Rodríguez and Mariano Pernía are back from suspension.

Aguirre, 49, is offering no excuses. "We have to go for victory because we're the home side," he said. "We showed against PSV we like to play and we want to do so again against Marseille. Our substitutes' bench will feature some young players. It's true we have a lot of absentees but this is the Champions League and these things happen. We'll deal with it. We're at home and will feel the warm support of our fans on what will be an emotional occasion for everyone." Atlético will be contesting their first home match in the competition for eleven years against a Marseille team who are third in Ligue 1 and who, despite losing to Liverpool FC in their Group D opener, caught the eye with their pace on the ball. "We fear their speed – they attack quickly and are explosive moving forward from midfield," Aguirre said.

Good spirits
Marseille, however, have scored only three times in their last five games in all competitions, not that coach Erik Gerets is showing signs of concern. He will be without the injured Elliot Grandin and Julien Rodriguez, but with defender Ronald Zubar back from a foot injury and forward Bakari Koné recovered from a hamstring problem, the Belgian stressed the positives. "We're coming off the back of some negative results, but the boys are in good spirits," said Gerets, whose side drew 1-1 at Le Mans UC 72 on Saturday and have not won in Ligue 1 in three outings. "We're looking to play a good match at a good level." 

Old foes
This is not the first time Gerets and Aguirre have met. The pair also crossed paths as players at the 1986 FIFA World Cup when Aguirre's Mexico defeated Gerets's Belgium. "He's a fabulous trainer," Gerets said. "We have played against each other, but maybe I forgot about that because we lost the game." Asked about his team's chances at the Vicente Calderón, the 54-year-old added: "We've been studying Atlético and tomorrow we'll try to get a result here against them. I saw the statistics of their game against PSV and in particular the percentage of possession they had. We have to do our best to try to rob them of the ball."