Atlético face date with destiny... or disaster

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Twelve fun-filled months in the life of Atlético Madrid manager Javier Aguirre are about to be stomped on and squashed into 180 minutes of frenetic football.

On Wednesday night, the rojiblancos kick off part one of their terrifying tussle against Schalke in the Champions league qualifying round.

For Aguirre, it's been an unforgettable year of dodging the sack, being booed, receiving insults from his players and needlessly gobbing off at Villarreal's club doctor, thinking he was a lowly kitman. 

After dragging themselves into fourth last season, wheezing and panting like an Olympic marathon runner, Atlético now need to barge their way past their battling Bundesliga opponents in order to return to the glories of the Champions League after a 4165 day absence.

Atlético gear up for Champions League showdown

"We're going to play for our lives in Germany," claimed Aguirre on Tuesday. And with the Gíl family still running the show at the Vicente Calderón, it's a comment from the Mexican manager that can probably be taken quite literally.

On paper, Atléti are looking reasonably tasty, even without the busy in Beijing Kun Agüero. Johnny Heitinga and Tomas Ujfalusi will be in central defence, which means no more comedy defensive stylings by the idiot twins, Pablo and Eller - especially as the latter has been booted out of the club.

The biggest worry for Atlético is that their pre-season has not exactly prepared the players for a match against dogged opponents whose league starts in just three days time.

A terrible tour of Mexico and a couple of easy-peasy, lemon-squeazy encounters against Alcala and Rayo Vallecano suggest that Wednesday night's tactics will consist of hanging on for dear life and hoping that things come good in the Spanish capital.

"Not going through wouldn't be a disaster, but a huge disappointment," admitted the positive-thinking Mariano Pernia.

Should all go tickety-boo for the rojiblancos then the watching world could be treated to all kinds of footballing fun, both on and off the pitch, for the next few months. That's according to one Atlético Madrid supporter La Liga Loca spoke to on Tuesday.

The season-ticket holder cheerfully promised "more fans running in and out of stadiums. More opposition fans being attacked. More police being attacked. More seats being thrown. More fireworks being thrown and more fines from UEFA."

La Liga Loca, for one, says "Go Atleti!"

Barcelona are also in action but shouldn't need to break into a sweat to beat Wisla Krakow, although Pep Guardiola is doing his managerial duty by suggesting that it will be a tough game.

The Barça coach also announced that a certain striker from Cameroon will remain with the club after a summer filled with more comings and goings than Ever Banega at a topless internet cafe.

"Eto'o is staying because I want him to," claimed Pep, meaning two weeks of crayon drawings on the front covers of the now news-starved Sport and Mundo Deportivo.

Eto'o: Going nowhere after impressing pre-season 

"Was it his last goal for Madrid?" was Marca's headline on Wednesday as they reflected on Robinho's equalising effort against Eintracht Frankfurt the previous evening.

'Probably not' was the reply from Bernd Schuster who declared bravely that "Robinho is staying with us."

La Liga Loca, for one, would flog him to Chelsea for 20 quid, primarily to be spared another thumb-sucking goal celebration but also to see if the borderline barmy Bernd Schuster would react to the transfer by battering the Calderón family's cat to death with his ice hockey stick.

Two more players appeared to have lost their marbles over the past few days.

Getafe's Miguel Pallardó has agreed to spend a year doing volunteer work by opting for a loan move to Levante. And that has set La Liga Loca pondering just why on earth the Spanish FA is allowing Levante to sign anyone new considering they still can't pay the footballers already there.

Blog favourite, Angel Arizmendi has decided to play at his natural level, at last, by joining second division strugglers Real Zaragoza, a side who still possess the stupidly good forward line of Milito, Oliveira and Sergio García.

Racing Santander president, Francisco Pernía is adding to his club's carbon footprint for no good reason by taking a pointless trip to Mestalla to get back the substantial debt still owed by Valencia on the transfer fee for Nikola Zigic.

Good luck with that one, Franny.

Espanyol have won Marca's approval by travelling to Germany for a friendly game using evil Air Berlin, an airline boycotted by Barcelona because of their dastardly non Catalan-speaking ways.

"They don't mix their 'churros' with their 'merinas'," beams the paper, baffling La Liga Loca who has never been keen on cold donut batter for breakfast.

Air Berlin: Not too shabby for Barcelona's city rivals

An Andalusian economics magazine has named Sevilla president, José Maria del Nido as the second most influential man in the city. The gentleman on top of the pile - who will now be very nervous indeed, especially if he owns a racehorse - is the president of the Abengoa company.

And finally, Marca are currently singing the praises of Sevilla keeper, Andres Palop by writing that the only two medals missing from his personal trophy cabinet are the Champions League and the World Cup.

Which is a little like saying that the only notches missing from La Liga Loca's football-themed futon are those of the Cruz sisters.