Yannick Ferreira Carrasco has handed Atletico Madrid a fitness boost as their hectic run of fixtures continues with a trip to Mestalla to face Valencia on Saturday.
Belgium winger Carrasco has missed high-flying Atleti’s past four matches in all competitions with ligament damage in his right ankle, but he has come through training unscathed this week.
Subsequently, Carrasco has been given the go-ahead to return to action and he comes into at Atleti squad riding high following excellent back-to-back La Liga victories.
Antoine Griezmann scored the only goal as Atleti beat rivals Real Madrid in last week’s derby, and the Frenchman scored again from the penalty spot in Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Real Sociedad, leaving them four points clear of third-placed Madrid.
The trip to Mestalla completes a run of five matches in 15 days, but forward Angel Correa insists the team remains fresh for a contest against an improving Valencia side.
“We have played many games in the space of a few days,” he told Atleti’s official website.
“Wednesday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday. But the team has earned very good results and are physically very well.”
Carrasco, a scorer in the 2-1 win over Valencia in October’s reverse fixture, is sure to add an attacking threat to an Atleti side has just 39 goals this season, with Griezmann contributing 14 of those.
Correa acknowledges that the forwards have not contributed as many goals as they would have liked, but insists all that matters is winning matches.
“It is true that there are few goals from strikers,” he added. “But it doesn’t matter who scores the goals, what matters is that Atletico Madrid wins.”
Valencia have underperformed in La Liga this season and they find themselves ninth, some 18 points adrift of a Champions League berth.
Head coach Gary Neville faced intense scrutiny over his position as a result, but the Manchester United great has seen his Valencia side start to turn the corner with five wins in their past six games in all competitions.
Part of their upturn in fortunes has been down to the form of Denis Cheryshev, who joined on loan from Real Madrid in January.
The winger scored the winner in Wednesday’s 2-1 win at Malaga and the Russia international is confident Valencia, who have lost just once in their past 12 home matches versus Atleti, can continue to move up the table.
“What was missing we’ve started to recover subconsciously. The team is doing well again in La Liga and Europe. Hopefully it stays that way,” he told Superdeporte.
“Atleti are demonstrating the squad they have. They’re a very compact side and don’t concede many goals. If we approach the game convinced that we can win then it is possible.”
Key Opta stats:
– Valencia have lost just one of their last 12 league games at Mestalla against Atletico (W7 D4).
– Valencia have won just one of their last eight league games at home (D5 L2), 2-1 against Espanyol and they have conceded in all of them.
– Atletico have conceded only 11 goals in La Liga this season, a record of a La Liga side after the opening 27 games.
– Simeone’s side have won in five of their last six league trips and they lost the only game when they conceded (2-1 against Barcelona).
– Denis Cheryshev has already scored two goals in five appearances for Valencia in La Liga, two fewer than in the whole of last season for Villarreal