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João Félix’s injury has a silver lining

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The Portuguese will miss the Madrid derby with a muscle injury. But perhaps the break will be good for him.

Atletico Madrid v Leganes - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Parte Médico has paid Atlético Madrid another visit, ruling João Félix out of Saturday’s derby against Real Madrid at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. It comes after several weeks of escalating pressure placed on the 20-year-old’s shoulders, so this break could perhaps be a blessing in disguise — for the player and the club.

Félix looks shattered, mentally and physically. The latter makes sense. Injuries to other members of the squad and the extra time games against Madrid and Cultural Leonesa placed a greater burden on him in recent weeks as he’d had to play more and more minutes. Across his first six matches this season, the Portuguese played an average of just 76 minutes per match. Across his past six, he’s played 95 on average. He needs a rest.

Mentally, this time spent away from the spotlight could be just as important. Félix’s performances have been scrutinised more and more intensely as Atlético’s poor results have piled up in January. It’s true that the forward hasn’t been playing well and that he hasn’t been contributing in the way that some expected, but there’s a need to remember that he is just 20 years of age and that this is his first season at a new club, with a new coach, in a new city, with a new language. Sadly, that isn’t being considered when he is brought up in the media. So a short break away from the magnifying glass could be good for him — he should return refreshed and re-energised.

Club Atletico de Madrid v CD Leganes - La Liga Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images

Remember, Félix sprained his ankle in October, and his first start after his recovery was in the match against Barcelona in the league, the 1-0 defeat on Dec. 1. That was one of his very best performances of the entire season, as he caused the Blaugrana back line all kinds of stress before he came off. If Félix can return with that kind of attitude and play, then that’s something to look forward to.

Félix could be back and well-rested for the Liverpool first leg, but of course he also misses a big match by being unavailable for this weekend’s derby. This, though, isn’t necessarily a huge concern. If Atlético are to beat Liverpool, they’ll likely need peak Félix. But to get a result against Real Madrid, not so much — based on the way recent Madrid derbies have played out, Saturday’s match should be a midfield battle decided by who finishes better when the one or two one-on-one opportunities come about (or who hacks down their opponent when he’s breaking through). Atlético won’t necessarily need Félix in order to win in this way — more likely, Diego Simeone will just need Álvaro Morata or Ángel Correa to have their shooting boots on.

Speaking of Correa, the absence of Félix will see the Argentine play a more advanced role and this could work in the derby. Correa is experienced and has been one of Atlético’s best performers this season, while he will also work back more than Félix. Playing a 4-4-2 with Morata and Correa up top might actually give Atlético a better chance to win this specific game against this specific opponent.

So, there’s no need to freak out about Félix’s injury. We all hope he can recover quickly and be back soon. But in the meantime, this spell away from the drama currently encapsulating the club would be welcome.