I think Atlético Madrid have to avoid injury crises, mainly. This team has been remarkably consistent domestically despite being decimated by absences in defense — Diego Simeone has had to introduce the inexperienced Javi Montero into the team and move Saúl Ñíguez to left back. Getting everyone healthy in front of Jan Oblak would be a big boost.
An arguably bigger boost would be the return of a fit Diego Costa. Granted, Nikola Kalinić has filled in admirably, but he cannot be compared to the Spain international at his raging, frothing best. He will be needed if Cholo and company want to make it past Juventus in the Champions League Round of 16.
Finally, Atleti should be active in the January market and upgrade in midfield or at fullback. I would kill for Hugo Mallo to come over from Celta Vigo, but more realistically, the club would probably prioritize a Gelson Martins replacement should the sparingly-used Portuguese be moved on.
From the daunting 4-0 loss against Dortmund in the Champions League to the thrilling 3-2 win against Valladolid not so long ago, Simeone and his men have seen highs and lows. As of late however, they have consistently earned good results, especially in LaLiga. If Atlético want to do their absolute best from now to May, they need to keep this consistency going.
If the team can be consistent in their league and Champions League campaigns, there is no reason why they can’t have an incredible push these next few months. If the defense can consistently earn clean sheets like we have seen, if Antoine Griezmann and company can consistently hit the back of the net, and if Simeone can find a way to consistently win matches, there is no limit to what this team can achieve.
One player I would like to see Atlético buy in the transfer market this January is another defender to help alleviate the injuries at the back line. A player such as Ricardo Pereira from Leicester City could definitely be that guy. The 25-year-old Portuguese right back is a player who pairs blistering pace with decent crossing.
Atlético need to build depth in order to advance as far as possible in LaLiga, the Champions League, and the Copa del Rey and maybe even secure a title. As the season goes on, Atleti will need to dig deep in order to win games and injuries will happen. It is how the team can respond to injuries that will determine how far they advance this season.
The team has already withstood injuries to Diego Costa, Filipe Luís and Lucas Hernández among others. Saúl has responded expertly playing all over the midfield in both attacking and defensive roles — he has even slotted in at left back.
The red and whites have conceded just 12 goals this season, five less than any other team in La Liga. However, the attack still leaves something to be desired. Atlético have scored just 25 league goals, fifth in the league.
Therefore, Atleti must step up the attack to move forward in all competitions. Inserting Ángel Correa into a more attacking midfield, getting Diego Costa back from injury and adding a midfielder in the January transfer window would help the team score more. Nahitan Nández is available from Boca Juniors and the team should add him to help in midfield.
The team has also been linked to Roma veteran Aleksandar Kolarov and should sign him to add insurance.
Atlético need to figure out Costa’s situation for once and for all. He cut a frustrated figure even before his injury. It looked like the chemistry between himself and Griezmann was maybe not non-existent, but certainly changed from what we might have expected and what we were promised when he signed on.
It’s no surprise, perhaps, that Atlético won the three games since Costa went down eventually with his foot pain. They scored seven in those three games and kept two clean sheets in the process. It’s also no coincidence, maybe, that Griezmann had his three best expected goals figures in the last three games.
Either Atlético find a way to make Costa and Griezmann work or sell Costa to the highest bidder. He seemed open to a move to China during his time at Chelsea and might be in the mood for one last payday if that is the case. Best case scenario obviously is that he returns and scores 15 goals with Griezmann getting another 15 in the next five months — but that seems unlikely.
At that point, the best replacement would probably be Maxi Gómez if he is at all gettable. I’d have Diego Godín and Jose Giménez have a chat and use the fund from a Costa sale to acquire the big Celta Vigo number nine.