Last season, Atlético Madrid stayed injury-free relative to its pursuers in LaLiga. Atlético overcome a COVID-19 outbreak in February to win the title as key contributors like Koke (37 appearances), Marcos Llorente (37), Ángel Correa (38), Jan Oblak (38), and Luis Suárez (32) were all healthy enough to steer the team toward the crown.
This season could not be going worse in that department.
Llorente has suffered multiple muscular injuries, while starting central defenders José Giménez and Stefan Savić have missed chunks of games (and the former will be out this weekend after testing positive for COVID on Thursday). Koke, Geoffrey Kondogbia, and Thomas Lemar have also spent time on the shelf. In addition, Diego Simeone and his medical staff have come under intense scrutiny for inserting Daniel Wass back into Saturday’s loss to Barcelona when the player had obviously injured his right knee.
Antoine Griezmann’s status has also come into question. Dani Carvajal caught him in the right leg during December’s derby against Real Madrid, and Griezmann has played just one game out of nine since — a Copa del Rey win against Rayo Majadahonda on Jan. 6. Griezmann scored in that game before re-injuring his hamstring, and he had to exit before full-time.
Marca reported Thursday that Atlético’s much-maligned medical staff now is exercising “maximum caution” with Griezmann. The Óscar Celada-led team has ruled Griezmann out of Saturday’s game against Getafe and Wednesday’s meeting with Levante, both at the Wanda Metropolitano.
The intention is for the Frenchman to play a few minutes at Osasuna on Feb. 19 to help him re-establish a rhythm before Manchester United visit Madrid in just under two weeks.
Griezmann is a player who has rarely been injured in his career, and Atlético’s objective in LaLiga is now simply “make top four.” On one hand, being cautious and patient with the 30-year-old sounds ideal.
But the Rojiblancos are fighting themselves as well as other teams — and with the way they have been playing over the past couple months particularly, few should have them down as shoo-ins for third or fourth place. Atleti need to get healthy fast, and it’s natural to have little confidence in a medical team that has overseen several muscular injuries this season and, at Camp Nou, showed it would not hesitate to put an injured player in a dangerous situation.