Atletico kick-off Europa League defence

BY foxsports • September 15, 2010

Atletico enjoyed an unforgettable end to last season, ending a 14-year wait for a trophy when won the Europa League as well as reaching the Copa del Rey final, and they looked to have picked up where they left off this campaign. After keeping hold of most of their most prized assets and making some astute signings this summer, Atletico won the European Super Cup by beating Inter Milan last month and have since then stormed to the top of the Primera Division standings with back-to-back wins over Sporting Gijon and Athletic Bilbao. That has left Quique Sanchez Flores' side brimming with confidence ahead of the trip to Greece, although they must do without the influential Aguero after he suffered a leg injury in the weekend win over Athletic. Aguero is also a doubt for Sunday's Primera Division visit of Barcelona to the Vicente Calderon, although Atletico are not thinking about that match yet. Midfielder Mario Suarez said: "We are the current champions of this competition and we want to have a good showing in the Europa League. We are going to Greece for the three points, to continue giving a good image of ourselves, to beat Aris and show that we are the champions." Aris could provide some tough opposition for the holders, though. Since making their European debut exactly 40 years ago tomorrow, the Greek side have been unbeaten at home in UEFA competition, winning 11 and drawing the other 10 of their matches in front of their own fans. Nevertheless, Atletico midfielder Raul Garcia insists they have no reason to fear their trip to the Kleanthis Vikelidis stadium, saying in AS: "Last season we visited difficult grounds, like Galatasaray. The pressure will be great but this can be turned into a form of motivation." Aris were beaten at home this weekend however, going down 1-0 to champions Panathinaikos, who last night suffered at the hands of another Spanish side in Europe, thumped 5-1 by Barcelona in the Champions League. That defeat against Pana left Aris 10th in the league standings on three points having won their opening match 1-0 against Kavala. Aris are coached by Argentinian Hector Cuper, a man who should know plenty about Atletico having coached Real Mallorca, Valencia and Real Betis in Spain. Defender Neto, midfielder Juan Carlos Toja and striker Danijel Cesarec are all suspended for Aris.

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