Quique Sánchez Flores had a lengthy press conference on Friday, in which he began by referring to the upcoming match against Atlético de Madrid: "We've been looking at things we can change in order to improve. Having analysed the previous two matches, we know what we did well and what we want to avoid repeating. There are areas to improve both in attack and defence. Hopefully we can follow the game plan and get the result that we want." In terms of players returning to fitness, he confirmed that "Lamela has been back in training which is great news for us. Since I've been here I've been very impressed by him. He wants to play and is ready to work hard on the training ground."
He mentioned that fortunes in attack have taken an upturn: "We've found some good form in front of goal. Playing with two strikers, Isaac and En-Nesyri, we have a lot of pace and energy. This pairing, if they keep this up, will certainly cause problems to the defence. They create space, attack the area and are clinical finishers. I really enjoyed watching them play together and I'm confident that this partnership will reap rewards."
Our head coach revealed that he's very keen to include academy players in the first team, but with precaution: "You already know that we are not afraid to start our young players. Having youth on the pitch gives us energy and hope and that is fantastic to see. Of course, each game offers a different challenge and we will field the players that match the dynamic of the game. The other day, with regards to Acuña, he fought well. He has plenty of experience and knows what to do in those gritty situations. Then we made a little change on the left-hand side of defence because Isi changed to attack down the right. He was getting away from his man and Hormigo didn't know exactly what to do. But fortunately the discomfort only lasted a few minutes. When the youngsters play, they play without fear and that's exactly what we want to see. But sometimes they can find themselves under pressure and the lack of experience becomes apparent. But they of course need first-team minutes and we are not afraid to take that risk on them. In terms of Sunday, the team selection is yet to be decided. I have a couple of different ideas that I'm considering in my head so hopefully the decision I make is the correct one."
""We've found some good form in front of goal. Isaac and En-Nesyri give us a lot of pace and energy"
Sánchez Flores admitted that having a good performance in all areas of the pitch is vital: "We must be disciplined if we are to do what the top teams to do well. For example, attacking with coordination, fluidity and urgency. This helps generate both physical and mental strength. The best team in any league knows how to defend well, defending together as a unit, maintaining shape of the ball and backing off when necessary. They do this consistently. Currently, we are a team who has just managed to win an important game, but now we have to learn from that experience and push on. We've shown that we are capable of finding space up front and creating shooting opportunities. Playing possession-based football without creating genuine scoring chances is something that annoys me a little. We have found a way to move the ball up the field quickly and have a shot at goal. But we must also be able to find a way to control the football and control the game. That is something we're working on."
Asked whether he would be using a four or five-man defence, the manager said he was yet to make a final decision: "I would love to answer that we have a plan for sure, but the results are inconsistent. The plans, therefore, are changing all the time. We have to move in one direction but soon players that will allow us to change between the two systems will be returning. Whatever system is used, the important thing is that the mechanisms work. This requires a lot of energy and technical ability. You have to look for space, anticipate movements and the same in defence. You have to close down moves quickly, with energy, or it doesn't work. A very good example of this is Athletic Club, who always play with the same system but with a lot of energy. It's not a question of formation, but effort."
Agoumé will not be available after picking up an injury, but Quique says there are no excuses: "Unfortunately, we just have to get used to it. We have to adapt and go with what we have. We're a huge club and lucky to have lots of players. Other teams have much smaller groups and you're forced to rely on youngsters. You can't moan all the time or make excuses. It is what it is and it will be an opportunity for another player." Back to the analysis of the game: "I expect a very tight, hard-fought and energetic game. It will be similar to what we've seen in the past because Atlético's DNA doesn't change, even if the system does. If we are at the same level, it will be the kind of game we have always known, big, tough and strong. Hopefully we'll be at the right level to make that happen."
Discusing what our young recrutis can offer the team, the manager shared that things "are moving along nicely. During the week we like to bring players into training. We've been impressed by them in the small games we've played internally and we're keeping an eye on them. We want to have them at our disposal as the first team's current situation is the priority at the club right now, but we also want to bear Sevilla Atlético in mind because they are having an extraordinary campaign and are pushing for promotion, so don't want to hinder them too much. We've had the two top players with us this week. They are agile, hungry, dynamic and in the case of Idumbo, who I know a little better, he does everything we ask of him. In the reserve team, they are showing their level and if they stand out, they can aim for the first team. We've seen a little bit of Alejo [Veliz] and from next week he'll be doing more work. I've spoken to him and he's very keen. He's an Argentine with a lot of talent and such players are always welcome."
He also stressed the importance of everyone acting as a team: "We're going to make sure that the lads stay humble. I can see this coming together... I can see little there are gestures that catch my attention and that I like. The other day in Vallecas, I saw Badé and Marcao high-fiving when they cleared the ball, Sow and Óliver hugging each other when they recovered a ball... That feeling of teamwork and that where they make an effort there is a reward, that feeling is fantastic because that's where the comeback comes from. Believing in their efforts and repeating them, because they have the quality. I am a tiny piece in a project with a lot of history. I live in a hotel and I know that I leave here and I will just go back to my hotel room. When we win I'm happy, but because people's happiness is my happiness. Winning opens minds and excites. We would like to give continuity to that so that people are happy and enjoy their team."
Atlético are coming from Wednesday's game: "They have their league commitments, they are very focused on the fight for the Champions League and as well as the cup. However, they have two players in every position and hardly any injuries. That gives them a huge advantage when competing on all fronts. We can't be under the impression that they won't be physical for the whole match... We're hoping for everything we can do and that's where we can find the door to a good result. If we are at a good level, even if we play a bit deeper, we should make the game difficult for them. In the cup, we managed to do that but there were other things we weren't so good at. We see things we can improve on for this game, but the idea and the hope is that we have enough in our locker to stay competitive for the entirety of the match."