Atlético Madrid’s midfield has been the subject of scrutiny throughout the 2016-17 season. Inconsistent performances from several players have made a once-strong midfield rather weak, and reinforcements have been complicated by injuries and the club’s transfer ban.
Now, it appears the African Cup of Nations will further compromise Atlético’s options in the middle of the park.
Thomas Partey has been called up by Ghana coach Avram Grant (talk about a blast from the past) to take part in AFCON next month. The 23-year-old is set to join up with his national teammates on Jan. 7 as the tournament begins in Gabon on Jan. 14. Thomas will be unavailable beginning with Atlético’s game against Eibar on Jan. 7 and ending with Leganés’ trip to the Vicente Calderón on Feb. 5, and he could miss more matches - up to 10 in total - if Ghana make a deep run in the tournament.
From the player’s perspective, playing at AFCON will be great for Thomas and will give him the minutes he has struggled to get under Diego Simeone. From an Atlético perspective, Thomas’ absence could be good news for someone like Alessio Cerci. Everyone’s favorite Italian may stay at Atleti through the remainder of the season in part to provide emergency cover. But with Augusto out, Tiago nursing a knee injury and Thomas gone for a month or more, Simeone's midfield depth will be put to the test and his players will have to stay sharp.