Whisper it and knock on wood, but it appears that for the first time all season, Atlético Madrid will have its entire first-team squad available after the international break.
Thomas Lemar and Šime Vrsaljko have not played since March 6 but returned to full training with the group on Monday morning. Yannick Carrasco joined them as he completes his recovery from a nasal procedure. Matheus Cunha and Daniel Wass returned last week, while Diego Simeone has flown back to Madrid from Argentina after his father’s death last Friday.
According to Álvaro González at Diario AS, all five players will be under consideration to play Saturday, when Atlético face struggling Alavés at the Wanda Metropolitano. Ángel Correa will be the only unavailable Rojiblanco as he starts a two-game suspension for insulting the referee during Atleti’s win at Rayo Vallecano just before the break.
The squad’s return to health will give Simeone much-needed flexibility to prepare for a great continental challenge — next Tuesday, Atlético will face Manchester City in the first leg of a Champions League quarterfinal. With Vrsaljko and Wass back, Marcos Llorente can play once more as a right-sided midfielder, his most dangerous position. Lemar’s creativity and technique are qualities that help Atleti build attacks more smoothly through the middle. Cunha’s agility and verticality are important ingredients to the high-pressing recipe Simeone has tried to cook up in recent weeks.
The Rojiblancos have suffered over 40 injuries this season but are finding form and fitness at the right time. Even with many of these players unavailable, Atlético entered this FIFA break on a seven-game unbeaten run and have notched five consecutive wins in LaLiga. The improved results have solidified the team’s all-important place in the top four. FiveThirtyEight’s most recent projections have assigned Atlético an 83 percent chance to make next season’s Champions League, and a 39 percent chance to finish third.