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Atlético Madrid-Granada CF: Squad depth challenged yet again

Half a dozen players are unavailable for this must-have fixture.

Atletico De Madrid V Rcd Espanyol De Barcelona - La Liga Santander
Ángel Correa has five goals and three assists in eight career meetings with Granada.
Photo By Oscar J. Barroso/Europa Press via Getty Images

Atlético Madrid head into a key game against Granada with six first-team players unavailable through injury or suspension.

Diego Simeone will not be able to call upon João Félix or Thomas Lemar, who suffered season-ending muscle injuries in Sunday’s win against Espanyol. José Giménez and Héctor Herrera remain out, while the club failed to overturn suspensions doled out to Felipe Monteiro (yellow card accumulation) and Geoffrey Kondogbia (red card on Sunday).

“We have lost what João was giving us, he was in great form and had continuity with all the games he was playing,” Simeone said on Tuesday. “That was very good for his confidence, his balance, and for growing his game.

Club Atletico de Madrid v RCD Espanyol - La Liga Santander
Lemar down injured prior to his departure from Atleti’s game against Espanyol.
Photo by Rubén de la Fuente Pérez/NurPhoto via Getty Images

“Lemar is a different player from others we have. In that transition between defense and attack he is one of the best we have in midfield, and it is a pity that he is out. These injuries are not coming at a good time, but there is no doubt that there are other guys waiting to play.”

Atlético (18-6-8, 60 points) are in a three-way tie for second in LaLiga after Cádiz shocked Barcelona at Camp Nou on Monday. Fifth-place Real Betis are focusing on Saturday’s Copa del Rey final versus Valencia, so beating 17th-place Granada (6-11-15, 29 points) and new manager Aitor Karanka would at least consolidate Atleti’s Champions League place, if not expand it.

“We know the qualities that Granada’s players have, they play a vertical game especially from the midfield and moving forward,” Simeone said. “With (Luis) Suárez, (Darwin) Machís, (Antonio) Puertas, (Jorge) Molina’s experience and (Luis) Milla’s good work in the middle, it’s a team that plays well offensively.”

Granada CF v Levante UD - La Liga Santander
Jorge Molina scored the winning goal when Granada beat Atlético in December.
Photo by Fermin Rodriguez/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Given the many absences, Simeone will change tack once more on Wednesday and likely return to a 4-4-2 formation. Koke, Yannick Carrasco, and Rodrigo De Paul are set to start in midfield, with Marcos Llorente potentially joining them. Antoine Griezmann is probable to come back into the 11, and the injuries will offer a great opportunity for Ángel Correa or Matheus Cunha to garner serious minutes.

Cholo also addressed one of the top stories in Spanish football — the leaked audio clips of discussions involving Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué and Royal Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales in 2019. Piqué’s company, Kosmos, helped to negotiate RFEF’s agreement to have the Supercopa played in Saudi Arabia, and it is possible that Piqué himself took millions of euros in commissions from the deal. It was also revealed that RFEF is penalized financially if neither Barça nor Real Madrid appear in the tournament.

Meanwhile, Rubiales was recorded making disparaging comments about Atlético during the Rojiblancos’ bid to win the league title that season. They ultimately finished second, 11 points behind Barça.

“What is clear from the information that has come out is there is no doubt that the Federation would benefit more economically if Real Madrid and Barcelona go (to the Supercopa),” Simeone said. “It’s not very difficult to understand.

“In the same way that we feel very proud to have competed the way we have over these 10 years, we see ourselves reflected in all the teams that fight to be close to the top. Betis, Villarreal, Real Sociedad, (Athletic) Bilbao, Valencia, Sevilla ... everyone is left with the feeling that they’re in the same bag as us.”

Date April 20, 2022

Location Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid

Kickoff time 7:00 CEST, 5:00 p.m. GMT, 1:00 p.m. EST, 10:00 a.m. PST

Available TV/streaming ESPN+ (United States), Movistar LaLiga 2 (Spain), LaLiga TV (United Kingdom)