Atletico Madrid face Real Betis on Sunday night safe in the knowledge that either Barcelona or Real Madrid, possibly both, will have dropped points the night before. A lot can happen over the course of an international break and Jackson Martinez' ankle injury along with Juanfran's absence and Jose Gimenez' continued rehab from a muscular injury are a few story lines we have been keeping an eye on. How their absences will manifest themselves on Sunday night remain to be seen.
We have gone to the trouble of picking three things that you should keep an eye out for as los Rojiblancos return to action in the South of Spain on Sunday night.
Savic deputising in place of Gimenez
Jose Gimenez was at fault for an equalising goal against Deportivo la Coruna that saw him lose his place in Diego Simeone's first XI. He missed the victory of Sporting Gijon and appears close to a return, but according to reports from Atletico's final training session before Sunday, Savid and Godin played as the two centre-backs in Simeone preferred starting XI.
Savic has featured in three games to this point and has looked good in all three outings. Whether or not he can make use of these opportunities and usurp Gimenez entirely from the team is another thing but keeping an eye on his individual performance and how he plays alongside Diego Godin will be key to Sunday's clash.
Torres and his search for goal number 100
Fernando Torres scored goal number 98 and 99 of his Atletico career within the space of a week in clashes against Barcelona and Eibar. He has failed to register a goal since, however, and teeters on the edge of an enduring milestone in his career at the club. Jackson Martinez returned from international duty early having suffered an ankle injury that should not take too long to heal. Meanwhile, Torres will be given the chance to shine on Sunday at the tip of Simeone's attack.
Torres has a mediocre record against Betis having played nine, won four, drawn two and lost three. Individually, thought, he has scored four goals against the Andalusian side and will look to make that five on Sunday night. This could be a goalfest with Betis not performing particularly well at home in the league this year and expect Torres to be gunning for that elusive goal.
Can Gamez replace Juanfran?
Jesus Gamez is poised to replace the injured Juanfran as the right-back on Sunday night. One of the things Atletico are known for is their exceptional ability to field the same back four with Gabi and Tiago at the base of their midfield. It generally goes without saying what names will be first on the team sheet. This sunday is a little different, however, with Savic stepping in for Gimenez and Gamez replacing Juanfran. This could lead to some teething problems.
Gamez has proven himself to be an exceptional option for Simeone due to his versatility and he has featured as a left-back as well as being available as a right back, his preferred position.
For all of the plaudits that Godin, Koke, Griezmann et al. receive, Juanfran might just be the trump card within Atletico's setup. His ability to balance defensive duties along with his solidity in retreat are admirable. He can cross the ball as well as any right-back in world football and his telepathic understanding with the players ahead of him has been a long time in the works.
Whether Simeone opts to hold Gamez back and attack primarily down Filipe Luis' left side is something we can only speculate on but it will be interesting to see how Gamez performs in his first start since the 1-0 loss to Villarreal earlier in the season.