Atlético Madrid received another injury double-whammy on Monday, as the club confirmed star forward João Félix and top playmaker Thomas Lemar suffered hamstring strains in their left thighs during the first half of Sunday’s win over Espanyol.
Officially, both players’ recovery times depend on how they respond to treatment. However, Marca’s Pablo Egea reported Monday that “everything indicates” the duo is done for the 2021/22 season.
Egea qualified this slightly, saying there is a slim chance João and/or Lemar could return for the final two games against Sevilla and Real Sociedad respectively. But the likely recovery time for both and the nature of the calendar are decisive factors. If Atlético can further consolidate or even clinch its top-four place in the coming weeks, there will be no rush for either player to return.
(Update: João has since confirmed, via Instagram, that he will not play again this season.)
Of course, being without Lemar and João Félix complicates Atleti’s top-four hopes. These are two of Diego Simeone’s most impactful players.
João has been on a tear since February, notching six goals and three assists over the past 10 league games. The Portuguese was named LaLiga’s Player of the Month for March and had finally become an undisputed starter. Despite Lemar’s fragility — he has yet to play 2,000 minutes in a league season since joining from Monaco — the France international has nine goal contributions from 23 league appearances. The 26-year-old is this team’s best creative force, notching 3.89 shot-creating actions every 90 minutes on average, and only Yannick Carrasco is a more-successful dribbler (better than two per 90).
Once again, Simeone has to contend with multiple player absences after a brief period where everyone was available. Felipe and Geoffrey Kondogbia are suspended for Wednesday’s game against Granada (Atlético are appealing the second yellow card Kondogbia was shown Sunday). José Giménez and Héctor Herrera remain unavailable with their own muscular injuries, though Giménez ramped up his individual work on Monday.
The Rojiblancos’ victory over Espanyol increased their edge over fifth-place Real Betis to three points. They also hold a five-point advantage over Real Sociedad for the final Champions League place.