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Luis Suárez tests positive for COVID-19

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Atlético’s troubled international break just got worse.

Colombia v Uruguay - South American Qualifiers for Qatar 2022 Photo by Gabriel Aponte/Getty Images

This has not been a particularly kind international break for Atlético Madrid. Neither Héctor Herrera nor Stefan Savić has featured for Mexico or Montenegro (respectively). Kieran Trippier took a blow to the head during England’s loss to Belgium on Sunday, while Jan Oblak had a shoulder problem over the weekend and has not featured for Slovenia.

Now, Luis Suárez’s latest coronavirus test has come back positive.

As such, Suárez will not be available for Uruguay’s marquee matchup with Brazil on Tuesday. Goalkeeper Rodrigo Muñoz and press chief Matías Faral also tested positive, and the trio will enter into isolation. It is unknown whether Atlético teammates José Giménez and Lucas Torreira will have to be quarantined.

This is an obvious blow for Atlético, which has seen seven first-team players (and the coach) come down with COVID-19 since August. Suárez’s five goals in six league games have him tied for the team lead, and the 33-year-old surely was fired up to face old club Barcelona in Madrid on Saturday. Instead, he will miss that match, and he is certain to miss next week’s Champions League clash with Lokomotiv Moscow in addition to the following weekend’s game at Mestalla against Valencia.

Atleti host Bayern Munich after that, on Dec. 1. Suárez will not be able to leave his country until he tests negative, but the Bayern game makes sense as a targeted return date, given it will take place two weeks from Tuesday.

Atletico de Madrid v Cadiz CF - La Liga Santander Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images

FIFA’s international breaks can feel interminable even in the best of times, but they are proving absolutely toxic to players during a pandemic-ridden calendar year in which it feels as if the positive diagnoses will not stop. Players are required to travel around the globe during a season in which league games are played twice a week and are already pushing them to the limit. World football’s organizing body will certainly prefer inaction over anything substantive, so don’t expect anything to change.

But this is beyond egregious. It is blatantly unacceptable and categorically shameful that international breaks — spread out worldwide by their very nature! — are allowed to proceed as if the virus does not exist. Don’t be fooled into thinking games played in empty stadia are anything other than symbolic gestures. Do be prepared for more cases.

Diego Simeone will look to Ángel Correa, Marcos Llorente, and Yannick Carrasco to fill the void next to João Félix. Carrasco is back in training as he continues to recover from a hamstring strain, and the coach might be able to count on the slower-to-recover Diego Costa soon, too.