On Wednesday, struggling Atlético Madrid will attempt to end 2021 on a high note at Granada.
Atlético (8-5-4, 29 points) slumped to a third consecutive league defeat over the weekend — the team’s first three-game skid in LaLiga since 2011. The reigning champions’ title push is all but mathematically over, and Diego Simeone appears no closer to patching up a leaky defense as his 10th anniversary on the Atleti touchline approaches.
“Criticisms (of our form) are logical, it is normal for them to appear. We are in a position with a lot of (media) exposure. If you win, everything goes well. We are the first to understand that situation,” Simeone said Tuesday. “It is important to repeat many passages of play from the second half (at Sevilla), when the team was good, had good dynamics and energy.
“The results are not what we would like, (but) we have also won many games that we did not deserve to win,” Cholo continued. “In life and in football, sometimes things are given and sometimes they’re taken away.”
Granada (4-7-6, 19 points) started the season shakily, but are unbeaten in the past four and sit four points clear of the relegation zone. Jorge Molina, at 39 years young, scored a hat trick on Sunday to guide the Andalusian side to a key victory over Mallorca.
Injuries remain the story for Atlético as the Rojiblancos aim to extend an 21-game league unbeaten run over Granada that dates to 1974. Marcos Llorente has been ruled out with a gluteal problem after he exited the Sevilla game before halftime — he joins all of José Giménez, Antoine Griezmann, Stefan Savić, and Šime Vrsaljko as unavailable players for this game. Giménez has missed the entire month after exiting the win over Cádiz with what was initially termed a facial injury.
As such, João Félix, coming off promising cameos against Real Madrid and Sevilla, is expected to start next to an out-of-form Luis Suárez. Simeone had the chance to address concerns around both players on Tuesday.
“The team has to have more combination play, so we can get closer to the area where Suárez is lethal and he will be like he was last season,” he said.
“I hope Félix will be a decisive player, consistent within each game as in the past two, offering something different when he takes charge, when he attacks defenses. (We know) opponents will always target him when he has the ball. When he manages to turn and attack, he makes us a more vertical team.
“He hasn’t had continuity due to the many injuries he has had, but we all hope for the best.”
Date Dec. 22, 2021
Location Estadio Nuevo Los Cármenes, Granada, Andalucía
Kickoff time 7:00 p.m. CET, 6:00 p.m. GMT, 1:00 p.m. EST, 10:00 a.m. PST
Available TV/streaming ESPN+ (United States), Movistar LaLiga 1 (Spain), LaLiga TV (United Kingdom)