Atlético Madrid boss Diego Simeone has an issue at right back ahead of the Madrid derby in the Champions League first leg at the Bernabéu with José Giménez, Juanfran and Sime Vrsaljko all ruled out. AS takes a look at six possible solutions.
Play Stefan Savic on the right
The Montenegro international is a logical replacement as he occupies the position for his country. Simone has only four fully fit senior defenders for the game and the back line may consists of Savic on the right, with Diego Godín and Lucas Hernández in the middle and Filipe Luis on the left. The problem lies in breaking up the partnership between Savic and Godín, which has been the regular starting central defence this season. Savic may also struggle against the pace of Cristiano Ronaldo, Marco Asensio and Marcelo. He suffered when filling in on the right against Leicester and doesn’t have the attacking capacity to get forward.
Switch Lucas to his weaker foot
The France under-21 international is extremely versatile and Simeone has used a full back on the opposite side before in the case of Jesús Gámez, who often played left back despite being a right-sided player. Antonio López, a left-footer, was also deployed on the opposite flank by Simeone. The problem lies in the habitual problems experienced by natural left-sided players on the right and the need to move Godín from the left side of the central defence to the right to cover for Lucas’ rawness, which Simeone has done before when they’ve played together.
Risk forcing Vrsaljko
The Croatian suffered ligament damage to his knee against Sevilla on March 19 and was ruled out for a month. Tuesday’s game comes 44 days after that but the defender has yet to resume full training. He will be tested out in Monday’s training session to see what shape he is in but it would be a huge risk to play him after a month and a half out and the possibility of a recurrence of the injury, as happened with Diego Costa eight minutes into the Champions League final in 2014, will probably force Simeone to consider other options.
Drop a midfielder into the back four
Simeone said after Juanfran’s injury that Koke can play at right back, as he has done for Spain, and he could be a useful option in the style of Barça’s Sergi Roberto in the attacking element. The issue is losing a vital cog in Atlético’s midfield and limiting his influence further up the field and his pitch-covering role. Another option is defensive midfielder Thomas Partey, who came on for Giménez in Las Palmas, scored one and set up Fernando Torres for another. The incognito with the Ghana international is how he will respond to being run at by Ronaldo and company. Saúl is also an extremely versatile player, having occupied all the positions in midfield, the centre of defence and left back.
Change the side’s formation
Since Simeone’s second season at the Calderón, when Diego Costa emerged as a genuine goal scorer, Atlético have been synonymous with a 4-4-2. But given the paucity of options Simeone cold switch to the defence du mode with three at the back – Godín, Lucas and Savic - with Filipe as a left wing back and a midfielder operating as a right wing back.
Look to the academy
Another option is to call up a youngster from Atlético B. Simeone did so with Lucas in the Copa del Rey against Real Madrid last season to good effect. Alberto Rodríguez was called up for the game against Las Palmas but it would be a huge ask for the “new Giménez” to make his debut on such a stage and against a certain C. Ronaldo.