“Without Koke, Atlético are losing one of the best players we have got,” said Diego Simeone a week ago when explaining the importance of his midfielder to the collective cause.
The proof of Simeone’s comments is easily found in Atlético’s results in the absence of the Spain midfielder, who is out with a hamstring problem. In five games without the influential Koke, Atlético have won just one (a 1-0 victory against Celta) and drawn four: home and away against Qarabag in the Champions League, making the side's progression to the knock-out stages unlikely, against Villarreal at the Metropolitano and away at third-tier Elche in the Copa del Rey.
Atlético missing Koke's influence in midfield
Like many of his teammates, Koke was not in the finest form of his career before succumbing to injury but his value to the team is significant. He started the season with two goals and two assists in Atlético’s first five Liga matches, making him the third assist-provider behind Antoine Griezmann and Yannick Carrasco, who have one more each.
Furthermore, Koke keeps the midfield ticking over and unlocks opposition defences with his passing accuracy. The 25-year-old has found a teammate with 547 of his attempted passes this season, second only to Gabi (593), who has played two more games.