Atlético Madrid return to action on Saturday after what’s been a very long two weeks (with injuries, dumb rumors, et al). Los colchoneros will travel to Andalusia and La Rosaleda to start a massive April against a reeling Málaga.
Atlético entered the international break in great form, but come out of it somewhat battered and bruised. Aside from Diego Godín getting sonned, Jan Oblak’s Slovenia losing to Scotland, Antoine Griezmann falling victim to video replay, Ángel Correa’s Argentina getting swatted aside by Bolivia and Yannick Carrasco’s Belgium failing to beat both Greece and Russia, Kévin Gameiro got hurt, along with Nico Gaitán, Miguel Ángel Moyá and, on Friday, José Maria Giménez.
Gameiro is struggling with a bout of tendinitis that will keep him out through the Madrid Derby on April 8, but the hope is that he will be back in time to face Leicester City. Gaitán has a troublesome left big toe and is out of the squad, while Moyá received a muscular injury in his left thigh during training. Giménez had to leave Friday’s training session with groin discomfort - the groin, of course, has bothered him for much of this season. Šime Vrsaljko (knee), Tiago (knee) and Augusto (also knee) were out before the break and remain unavailable, although the latter participated in light training last week.
So, all this means that Diego Simeone probably will have just 15 players from which to choose for Saturday evening’s contest. Lovely.
Málaga, however, are badly out of form, with four losses and a dour stalemate against Leganés comprising that side’s past five games. Málaga have sunk to 15th and are on manager #3 of the season in Michel. Only four teams - three of which are in the drop zone - have conceded more goals than the Boquerones this season.
On paper, this is an opponent Atlético will not struggle against. But these games aren’t played on paper, as the cliché goes. Málaga beat Atleti 1-0 at La Rosaleda last season and made los colchoneros sweat in a 4-2 win at the Calderón in November. Back Atleti to win, but don’t expect fireworks.