Atletico Madrid to face Granada minus Gabi, Kevin Gameiro, Fernando Torres
Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone says his injury-hit team will again have to look for solutions, with strikers Kevin Gameiro and Fernando Torres, as well as midfielder Gabi Fernandez, unavailable for Saturday evening's La Liga game at Granada.
Gameiro has been struck by a stomach muscle problem which rules him out of the trip south, while club captain Gabi underwent a hand operation this week, and Torres remains sidelined following his concussion against Deportivo La Coruna on March 2.
With Augusto Fernandez and Tiago Mendes also long-term injury absences, Simeone has called up young Uruguayan playmaker Nicolas Schiappacasse and little-used Italian winger Alessio Cerci to his 18-man travelling party for the game at Los Carmenes.
The Colchoneros coach told his pregame news conference that he had often been dealing with such situations during what has been a difficult season for the team.
"Gameiro is not going to make the game, he does not feel well, and will not be in condition to play such an important game," Simeone said. "What happened with Gabi was unexpected. We keep saying that this season we have been hit by various things and had to look for the best options through a difficult year. Things happen and we cannot compete with the players we would like to have."
Torres spent a night in hospital after losing consciousness following an aerial clash in the game at Deportivo, and is yet to return to full training with his teammates, but Simeone said the veteran should be available for Wednesday's Champions League round-of-16 second leg at home to Bayer Leverkusen.
"[Torres] is in a recovery process," he said. "On Wednesday I believe he will be available."
Atletico beat Granada 7-1 at the Calderon in October, when the Andalusians were completely overrun and rooted to the bottom of the table. But under new coach Lucas Alcaraz the team have won their last three home games as they focus on a battle against relegation.
"Always the second half of the season is different from the first half," Simeone said. "Granada are a different team at home, where they are strong, intense, and have made life difficult for many opponents.
"Their coach has given them character. [Adrian] Ramos is an interesting player, does well with his back to goal. We must be ready from the start of the game."
Simeone said he was especially happy with the progress of young homegrown players at the Calderon, suggesting that Saul Niguez, 22, was on course to become one of the world's best midfielders.
"Since I came here to the club, apart from winning trophies, which we achieved, I always said that I wanted to bring on the home-grown players," he said. "Saul, Koke, Lucas [Hernandez], Thomas [Partey].... These are kids who have always responded well for us. Saul has the potential to be one of the best midfielders in the world -- he can shoot, pass, gets around the pitch, is good in the air. And he always wants to improve."
The Argentine also had kind words for ex-Atletico striker Radamel Falcao, who is starring again for Monaco this season after coming through difficult seasons in the Premier League with Chelsea and Manchester United.
"I am not surprised at all by [Falcao's] good performances," Simeone said. "I love him a lot. He had some difficult moments, but he has a rebelliousness and tremendous inner strength. I am happy that things are going well for him. Radamel is doing extraordinarily well at the moment."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan