Atlante are a Mexican Primera División team who now play in Cancún after relocating from Mexico City a couple of years ago. They’re a late addition to the Peace Cup tournament, replacing Celtic, and it’s actually quite odd that they were able to attend; Mexico’s Primera División kicked off on July 24th.
The Mexican league operates a two championship per season “Apertura” & “Clausura” system popular in Latin America. Atlante finished 14th in the last Causura, but 3rd in the previous Apertura championship. You will also see them playing in the 2009 FIFA Club World Cup as the winners of the 2008/09 CONCACAF Champions League.
I watched most of their 3-1 victory over Malaga yesterday and they can play a bit of football, no doubt. The third, from Christian Bermúdez, was a half decent volley that will be a contender for goal of the tournament. Not that I think that will be a particularly strong competition, mind you.
Malaga showed that the Mexican side can be vulnerable, they pretty much carved them open to score the first half equaliser. Atlante seemed to easily control the second half though and the final scoreline wasn’t undeserved. Aston Villa created next to nothing against Malaga, clearly they’ll need to play some proper grown up football if they are to get a result. Incidentally, Atlante’s win leaves Villa with a chance to progress in the tournament if they beat Atlante by at least two clear goals. Not impossible, but based on the last performance it’s difficult to see where the necessary goals will come from.
Atlante regard themselves as favourites to make the semi finals, their manager, José Guadalupe Cruz, knows a draw will do and that Villa will need to play a lot better than they did against Malaga if they hope to stop them. My paraphrasing of his words:-
A draw puts us in the semi finals, but we’re fully aware that Aston Villa will want to show that they’re better than their performance against Malaga. We know, as a Premiership team, that they can do much better.
Emile Heskey is in doubt as he’s admitted that his head still hurts. He’s also said that he remembers the kick off in the Malaga game, but not a lot else until he woke up on the treatment table. The other guy was bleeding out of his ear for some time after the incident. It was some clash of heads. Actually, isn’t bleeding out of your ear a really, really bad thing??
Luke Young has flown back to the UK for more treatment to his thigh injury. He had trained well a couple of days ago in Spain and Martin O’Neill was planning on playing him against Atlante, but he didn’t last long in yesterday’s session and it sounds like it might be quite a setback. Hopefully not.
Speaking of setbacks, Freddy Bouma has had several since dislocating his ankle a year ago at Villa Park. He’s in the Peace Cup squad, but will need a few more weeks yet before we can expect to see him back in action. It’s good to know that he’s still working towards that goal and is in the manager’s plans. Shorey and Lichaj will need to prove to the manager that he doesn’t need to bring in any new faces as cover.
Should Villa get the result they require it will set up a semi-final match up with either Porto or Beşiktaş, with Porto the more likely I would say. Conveniently, the game would be played in Malaga on Friday night. Besides gaining some fitness, I’m not sure these games are very useful for preparing for the EPL season, but the opposition are certainly decent analogues for the Europa League.
Aston Villa vs Atlante will be kicking off at 1930 GMT and there’s certainly online streams available. Again, I have it on TV here and will be Tweeting the major updates.