Manzano faces difficult night in Vicente Calderon

December 13th, 2011 - 7:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Madrid, Dec 13 (IANS) Atletico Madrid coach, Gregorio Manzano will face his toughest test of the season when Atletico entertain Rennes in the Europa League Thursday night.

Atletico need to win the game in order to ensure they finish top of their qualifying group and avoid the bigger teams such as Manchester United or Manchester City in the knockout phase of the competition.

However, the game will be a personal test for Manzano following his side’s 4-2 defeat away to Espanyol Sunday.

Atletico’s dismal first half performance has once again placed Manzano in the spotlight and the coach is fighting to hang on to his job. The former Rayo Vallecano, Malaga and Mallorca coach is in his second spell at Atletico after returning to the club in the summer and many never wanted him to return, Xinhua reported.

As a result he has been under pressure from the start and that pressure has increased with every poor result for an Atletico side that has only taken one point away from home in the Spanish Primera Liga this season.

Manzano has also annoyed the fans as a result of his falling out with winger, Jose Antonio Reyes, who appears to be on the verge of a transfer to Turkish club, Galatasaray.

Reyes’ departure would infuriate supporters who see the player as one of the few who puts his heart and soul into every match, but relations between Manzano and Reyes are rock bottom. That was made clear by images of Atletico’s training session Monday when Reyes avoided shaking hands with the coach, after Manzano had spoken to all of the other squad members.

The Spanish press are already speculating as to who will succeed Manzano at the Vicente Calderon. If his side are able to defeat Rennes and then beat Real Betis at the weekend, the coach may continue into the New Year, but he can expect a hostile reception Thursday and if his side are defeated, it could well be his last match in charge.

Elsewhere in the Europa League, Athletic Bilbao will rest several players for their trip to play Paris Saint Germain Wednesday. Bilbao have already assured they finish top of their group and coach Marcelo Bielsa will give an opportunity to youngsters and fringe players in his squad.

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