The international break - that irritating period that interrupts a winning run - is over and done with, and the real football returns. For Atletico Madrid, it is a chance to return to winning; a side which has claimed victory in six of its last seven (drawing at Barcelona in the other game) will go to work again Saturday against Granada. The Andalusian side have endured a difficult start to the season, already changing managers and still plodding along without a win. Atletico did the double over Granada last season, and indeed have not lost to the Carmenes side with Diego Simeone as manager.
With that in mind, the boss feasibly could be thinking ahead to Wednesday’s tilt in Rostov. It was a trip east that nearly cost Atletico top spot in Group C last season, and considering the colchoneros’ success rate against Granada, the fixation on the Champions League and the fact that international break just ended, some mainstays may depart early from the proceedings or not start at all. Let’s take a crack at predicting Simeone’s once Saturday’s 1st vs. 20th matchup:
GK: Jan Oblak
He’s keeping clean sheets for Slovenia now, too; Oblak was rarely troubled in his country’s 0-0 draw with England on Wednesday.
Would really like to see Sime Vrsaljko here - he tore it up with two assists for Croatia over the break. But Juanfran was again left out of Julen Lopetegui’s Spain and will be itching to go out and play 90.
CB: Diego Godin
The pharaoh is fully recovered from his ankle malady and played for Uruguay over the break. He is a sure bet to start Saturday.
CB: Stefan Savic
Savic scored for Montenegro in a 5-0 pasting of Kazakhstan last Saturday. Not only is his national team atop its group in World Cup qualifying, but so is his club side.
LB: Filipe Luis
Filipe took the armband in Brazil’s 2-0 win over Venezuela on Tuesday. He’ll look to continue his sizzling start to the season on Saturday.
We will probably see el capitan at least for a while Saturday. He again did not receive a call from the national side (it’s a shame, really).
Koke played two fine games for Spain in a 1-1 draw against Italy and a 2-0 win in Albania. La Roja are top of Group G and boast a +10 goal difference and the canterano is becoming a pretty big part of the side (gracias, Julen). However, could see him hauled off a bit early in preparation for Wednesday’s game in Russia.
CM: Thomas Partey
Saul Niguez suffered a tweak to his ankle on Spain duty and will not play. Tiago could be the choice here - he’ll get minutes Saturday regardless - but I’m taking a chance and declaring it to be Partey Time.
FW: Angel Correa
Another chance for Correa to impress when given a spot in the XI - this would be his third consecutive league start. Argentina had a difficult international break, suffering a 1-0 loss to Paraguay on Tuesday. Correa should be keen to impress.
FW: Antoine Griezmann
Griezmann was terrific in France’s 4-1 win over Bulgaria last Friday but was less-than-stellar in Les Bleus’ slim 1-0 win over the Netherlands on Monday. He’s also a candidate to get some extra rest if Atletico are in control.
FW: Kevin Gameiro
Gameiro’s torrid league form carried over to his national side, as he scored a brace against Bulgaria, slotting a perfect pass from Griezmann for his second. Saturday will probably be a Fernando Torres day, but El Nino has been a more important presence as a substitute, scoring and creating goals against Sporting Gijon, Barcelona and Valencia prior to the international break.