ATLÉTICO

Atlético: Álvaro Morata returns at Mestalla and has sights set on Liverpool

The striker played 25 minutes against Valencia, 13 days after suffering a muscular injury in the derby. He should be available - as should Diego Costa.

Just under a fortnight after limping out of the Madrid derby with a muscular injury, Álvaro Morata returned to first team action with Atlético.The striker started on the bench against Valencia on Friday and came on for the last 25 minutes of the game, replacing Santiago Arias in the 2-2 draw. It was just as Simeone had planned it - the coach wanted to take a look at the striker playing competitively ahead of Liverpool's visit to the Metropolitano on Tuesday. El Cholo has recovered his best striker in time for one of the team's key games of the season - the Champions League is now Atleti's only chance of winning silverware this season.

Morata supplies aerial power for Atleti

Morata is the team's top scorer with 10 goals, most of them headers. He's also the player who frees up the team and allows them to break forward when they are under pressure by playing balls into space, holding the ball up with his back to goal and with his aerial strength. We saw glimpses of that in Valencia - he met Vrsaljko's raking cross with a powerful. downward header at the far post which goalkeeper Jaume did well to get down to and parry away. 

Álvaro Morata

Morata's presence on Tuesday will be a psychological boost for Atlético - as would the return of Diego Costa, who is training but has not received the medical all-clear. Costa has been sidelined since November when he underwent surgery on a discal hernia. He hasn't played since the 3-1 win over Espanyol on 10 November so it's unlikely he will be risked on Tuesday. But his firey character rubs off on his team mates.

Simeone has had to play two games without any centre-forwards, using Ángel Correa and Vitolo as his references in attack last week against Granada and on Friday at Mestalla. Scoring has been and still  is an issue for Atleti this season - the team had gone a whole month without a win in LaLiga. 

Arias and Giménez get the all-clear

Against Valencia, Simeone also recovered Santiago Arias for the right-back position - another problem area since Kieron Trippier underwent an operation to remedy a groin injury. Almost immediately after losing the English full-back, Simeone also lost Arias to another muscular injury. Vrsaljko, who had gone 11 months without playing an official match after suffering a serious knee injury while out on loan at Inter, came on for Arias at Mestalla. Vrsaljko returned in the derby against Real Madrid. Yannick Carrasco, who rejoined the club on loan last month, replaced Koke for the final quarter of an hour and is still finding his feet in the side.

Giménez meanwhile was given the medical all-clear yesterday and also could return against Liverpool - that's good news for Atlético who have been having a hard time of it of late dealing with set-pieces and high balls into the box. However, with El Comandante and Felipe, those dead-ball worries should now be less of an issue.