Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone could not hide the enthusiasm brought on by Saturday's 1-0 win over Barcelona, though he dismissed the idea that he can see similarities with his 2013-14 title-winning team.

Los Colchoneros produced a solid display at the Wanda Metropolitano to defeat Ronald Koeman's misfiring Barca and go up to second in LaLiga, only behind Real Sociedad – who have played a game more – by virtue of scoring two goals fewer.

That victory extended Atletico's unbeaten run to 24 games in LaLiga and opened up a nine-point gap between themselves and Barca.

With defending champions Real Madrid also failing to inspire much confidence, having rarely impressed this season and been held by Villarreal earlier on Saturday, Atletico look like many people's favourite for the title.

Atletico have not won it since 2013-14, their first for 18 years at the time, but Simeone is keeping his feet on the ground.

When asked if he saw similarities with his previous title-winning team, Simeone told reporters: "No, I don't see them."

But Atletico's improvement from 2019-20 is not lost on the Argentinian, who added: "The most important things we value about the growth of footballers from last season to this one is being seen.

"We are working better on the pitch, we are being more complicit to share what the team needs and we see it.

"We need everyone. Felipe, who played much more continuously last season; Renan Lodi, who will surely be important; [Geoffrey] Kondogbia enters little by little; Saul [Niguez] is finding his best form; [Angel] Correa is showing extraordinary growth, not to mention Joao Felix or [Diego] Costa's enthusiasm when he came on.

"The group generates enthusiasm for me, because I see them wanting to look for important things, game by game."

The win saw Atletico end a run of 20 consecutive LaLiga matches without a victory over Barcelona, while Simeone had not beaten them in 17 previous league meetings.

But, despite the momentousness of such a victory, Simeone remained reserved and dismissed its importance.

"Football is game by game," he said. "Sometimes we have to win and sometimes we have to lose, in the previous games [against Barca] we had always been close to winning, aside from in the Supercopa in Saudi Arabia.

"Today we won, that does not change the plan of what is sought. I'm very happy with the team's effort."

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman was left feeling concerned by the manner of Atletico Madrid's winning goal in Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Wanda Metropolitano.

Barca travelled to Madrid having won only one of their previous five LaLiga matches, a run of results that already had them playing catch-up in the table.

Defeat – their third in a little over a month – means they could end the weekend in the bottom half of the table, with the Blaugrana seemingly struggling to recover from a tumultuous pre-season off the pitch.

The solitary goal conceded against Atletico came at the end of the first half when Gerard Pique – who was later substituted with a nasty-looking knee injury – failed to cut out Angel Correa's pass, and Yannick Carrasco skipped past the stranded Marc-Andre ter Stegen before slotting into an empty net from 35 yards.

The whole situation left Koeman frustrated.

"It is worrying," he told Movistar. "For a big team, conceding a goal like this ... it can't be, because it's the 47th minute, we had the ball and then they score, 1-0.

"We controlled and we knew that it was difficult to create many chances. We had a pair and with the score 0-0, the game would have been totally different [if they had taken either chance].

"Like any coach, I am responsible for the team's results."

Although the campaign is still in its early stages, Atletico's win saw them go nine points clear of Barca.

Koeman recognised it as a significant gap to bridge and is demanding a streak of wins from his men in response.

"It's a pretty big difference, but there is a lot of the league left and a lot of games," he continued.

"We know that every match is complicated, but after this defeat we have to chain an important winning streak.

"I have seen a team that has fought until the last second to been able to level the game, so in this sense I am not worried."

Barca confirmed after the match that Pique had sustained a knee sprain" though further tests are required to determine the extent of the injury.

In an alternate universe unaffected by coronavirus, Atletico Madrid's hosting of Barcelona on Saturday would have been all about Luis Suarez – his first match against his former club and Lionel Messi, hoping to create further distance between the two sides in the table.

But with the Uruguayan's positive test for COVID-19 ruling him out of an early reunion, all eyes were to be on Joao Felix, the undisputed star of this Atletico team that once again appears capable of a title challenge.

Seemingly now accustomed to the pressure that accompanied his big-money move from Benfica, and excelling in a slightly altered role to that he often occupied last term, Joao Felix had been identified as the key man for Atletico heading into the fixture.

If Atletico were to walk away with a potentially vital win, Joao Felix would surely be at the fore.

But while the Portugal star was his usual tidy self in the slender 1-0 victory, it was someone a little less flashy, perhaps even usually unheralded, who gave Atletico their direction and purpose on an eerie evening at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Koke's role was arguably going to be more important than ever – Atletico were unable to call upon either Lucas Torreira or Hector Herrera, meaning that whatever central pairing the captain was going to be a part of was going to be lacking a little steel.

But the Spain international, whose recent form earned him a recall after a lengthy Roja absence, found the space he needed to orchestrate, while he did some of the dirty work as well.

In the first half, Atletico played the much more entertaining football, working it nicely between themselves in triangles around the Barca midfield – Koke was central to many of their finest moves, his link-up play with Joao Felix and Angel Correa in the final third routinely easy on the eye.

Koke appears to have rediscovered his best form again this term and his influence on Atleti was clear throughout here.

His 72 attempted passes were 14 more than anyone else in an Atletico jersey, while he completed 93 per cent of them.

Furthermore, his accuracy actually increased slightly when in the opposing half, where 45 of them were plotted.

There was substance to his distribution as well.

He laid on two key passes, bettered by only Correa (three) in the Atletico side, yet the creative burden would usually be expected to be on the likes of Joao Felix, Marcos Llorente, Yannick Carrasco and Saul Niguez ahead of him.

Koke's 88 touches were unrivalled by anyone else in Rojiblanco, evidence that so much went through him, while off the ball he contributed with a team-high two interceptions, one tackle, one clearance and six recoveries – Carrasco (seven), the scorer of the decisive goal, was the only Atletico player to gain possession more often.

In recent seasons, although he remained prominent in a general sense for Atletico, the wider football community's perception of Koke had suffered – he was even subjected to jeers from home fans a little over a year ago.

At that point, his career appeared to have stalled badly at Atletico. His performances were becoming increasingly ineffective and it was beginning to rub off on supporters.

Simeone remained a believer, putting such actions down to the reactionary nature of football fandom – after all, only six midfielders have had more touches and attempted passes than Koke in LaLiga this term.

This resurgence is coinciding with Atletico undergoing their biggest shift in many years, both in terms of their less pragmatic style of play and, now, key results as well.

Prior to Saturday, Atletico had failed to win their previous 20 LaLiga games against Barca, while Simeone had not ever beaten them in the league – that equates to 17 matches.

But with captain Koke plotting their route through such uncharted waters, leading with rediscovered vigour and panache, it seems unlikely that even a landmark win over Barca will be the high point of 2020-21 for a re-energised Atletico.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen's extraordinary error gifted Atletico Madrid the decisive goal as they defeated Barcelona 1-0 at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Saturday's hard-fought LaLiga contest was settled by a remarkable Yannick Carrasco strike in the third minute of first-half stoppage time.

Ter Stegen – making just his third Blaugrana appearance in all competitions since returning from a knee injury – rashly set off in pursuit of the ball near the halfway line and was beaten by Carrasco, who kept his cool to find the net.

It was a setback Barca could not recover from as they succumbed to a third league defeat of the season to remain 10th, also losing Gerard Pique to a knee injury as Ronald Koeman's teething problems show no sign of easing.

The visitors had held their own in a lively start that saw Antoine Griezmann stab his volley just over before Ter Stegen dived away to his right to make a smart save from Saul Niguez's 20-yard drive.

Marcos Llorente came closest to an early breakthrough but blasted against the crossbar.

Jordi Alba interrupted a subsequent lull in proceedings with a sublime pass between Kieran Trippier's legs to send Lionel Messi through, yet he shot too close to Jan Oblak from a tight angle.

A nutmeg at the other end proved far more costly on the stroke of half-time, however, as Carrasco nudged the ball beyond Ter Stegen, who had inexplicably charged 40 yards from his goal to leave the Atletico winger with a straightforward finish into an empty net.

Clement Lenglet should have nodded Barca level 11 minutes after the restart but instead directed his header straight at a grateful Oblak and then saw centre-back partner Pique land awkwardly under a challenge, requiring assistance to depart down the tunnel.

And Diego Simeone's men subsequently came on strong again, pushing Barca back the other way to see out a precious victory.
 

What does it mean? Simeone's side the real contenders

For a little over 10 minutes, this was an open, exciting affair with chances at either end. But Atletico, masters of the scrappy win, slowed the pace of the game expertly and seized on a rare Ter Stegen error in clinical fashion.

Koeman needs some respite, but Simeone's side were never likely to relent, surely believing this strange year could be theirs. Atletico are second, level on points with leaders Real Sociedad, as Barca sit nine points off the pace already.

Trippier handles Alba task

Had Messi taken his first-half chance from an exquisite Alba pass, the nutmeg on Trippier would have been replayed over and over again. As it was, the Atletico right-back recovered superbly to win the battle down that flank.

The England international was involved at both ends of the field. He sent in four crosses, two of them finding team-mates, and created one chance, while winning four of his six duels and making one tackle, three clearances and two interceptions.

Barca's sweeper exposed

Ter Stegen is a rival to Manuel Neuer at international level but has long been established as Barca's number one. Neither Germany goalkeeper will reflect fondly on this week, though, as the Blaugrana ace followed up his watching brief in the 6-0 defeat to Spain by enduring a nightmare of his own.

The former Borussia Monchengladbach man, like Neuer, can take risks at times with his sweeping style, and this was one occasion where he paid the price. Carrasco became the eighth player to dribble past Ter Stegen in his LaLiga career as he committed an error leading to a goal for the ninth time.

What's next?

Champions League action resumes in midweek with Atletico at home to Lokomotiv Moscow on Wednesday, the day after Barca visit Dynamo Kiev.

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique suffered a potentially serious knee injury in Saturday's LaLiga contest with Atletico Madrid.

Atletico forward Angel Correa awkwardly fell on top of Pique's lower leg after being tackled, causing to bend the wrong way at the knee.

Pique was left in visible pain and seemingly unable to walk unaided.

The centre-back hobbled off the pitch thanks to the assistance of medical staff, but the look of anguish across his face was mirrored by one of concern on coach Ronald Koeman.

Barca were 1-0 down at the time of his withdrawal.

In a show of support, Pique's former defensive partner for Barcelona and Spain, Carles Puyol, tweeted: "Forca @3gerardpique I hope it's nothing."

Lionel Messi has every right to be "p****d off" at being questioned over his relationship with Antoine Griezmann, according to Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman.

Griezmann's former representative Eric Olhats last week suggested the Barca captain has played a significant role in the France star's struggles at Camp Nou.

Messi was asked about the remarks after landing at El Prat Airport on Wednesday, having represented Argentina in a couple of World Cup qualifiers over the international break.

"I'm a little tired of always being the problem for everything at the club," he said.

Messi's comments come at a time when he continues to be linked with a move away from Barca, but Koeman insisted it is not fair on his player to be constantly questioned.

"I can understand that Leo is p****d off. You have to respect Leo more," he said at a news conference ahead of Saturday's LaLiga clash with Atletico Madrid.

"After such a long trip and asking about Antoine is disrespectful. It may be your intention to create a controversy. 

"I have never seen any confrontation between the two on the field, training ground or in the locker room. 

"I am not in favour of giving importance to Olhats because he stopped being Griezmann's agent years ago. What he said is b******t."

Koeman added: "I have to defend Leo because after 15 hours of travel, they do a one-hour check, and then you find a lot of press asking you a lot of questions."

Messi failed in an effort to walk away from Barca in August as the validity of his release clause was questioned due to last season being prolonged by the coronavirus pandemic.

Koeman reiterated he is hopeful the six-time Ballon d'Or winner will stay on beyond this season but conceded the decision is out of his hands.

"He still has a year on his contract. In my opinion he has to stay here," he said. "But I am not the person who has to convince him. Nobody knows what may happen in the future.

"It is incredible what he has done for this club. He is the person who will make a decision about his future."

The comments made by Olhats placed Griezmann's role at Barcelona firmly back in the spotlight, the forward having failed to make the desired impact since arriving in July 2019.

Griezmann has two goals and one assist in nine appearances this term and missed a penalty in Barca's last outing before the international break.

However, ahead of this weekend's trip to Griezmann's former club Atletico, Koeman reiterated he has no concerns over the Frenchman's form.

"No, because I see him concentrating, working and trying to help win the games," he said.

Philippe Coutinho is back in Barca's squad for the showdown at the Wanda Metropolitano, coinciding with the loss of Ansu Fati to a knee injury for the next four months.

"Philippe is okay," Koeman added. "He has been training for almost a week now and we have to talk to the physios about the best time for him to enter the match - from the start or from the bench.

"He is not a winger who likes to go deep; he plays more as an offensive midfielder. He is a great player and it is always good to have him because he is versatile."

Diego Simeone refused to give his two cents on Antoine Griezmann's struggles at Barcelona after it was suggested Lionel Messi was to blame.

Griezmann's former adviser Eric Olhats said last week the France star was made to feel unwelcome by Messi upon joining Barca from Atletico Madrid for €120million in July.

The 29-year-old is averaging a LaLiga goal every 273 minutes for the Blaugrana, far below his record of one every 152 minutes across five seasons at Atletico.

When asked about Olhats' remarks upon returning from international duty with Argentina on Wednesday, Messi said: "I'm tired of being to blame for everything that's wrong with the club."

Despite presiding over Griezmann's far more successful time at Atleti, Simeone was unwilling to give his opinion on why the move is yet to bear fruit ahead of his team welcoming Ronald Koeman's side to the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday.

"I have a great personal affection for Antoine and it would not be appropriate for me to assess what is happening at Barcelona," said Simeone.

"Those questions are for the Barcelona coach, and he will explain what he sees fit."

Atleti lost Hector Herrera and Manu Sanchez to injury during the international break, while Luis Suarez and Lucas Torreira will miss out against Barca after testing positive for coronavirus.

"It wouldn't be my place to have an opinion on the coronavirus protocols," said Simeone.

"As for the positive tests that have affected us, we are part of society and some people can get it. We will have to use other players in the games and we hope Luis Suarez and Lucas recover as soon as possible.

"We are in a moment in the world in which this can happen, and it has affected us."

Barca have been in a state of turmoil since their Champions League quarter-final humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich in August, but Simeone does not believe their tumultuous state gives Atleti a better chance of emerging from their game with all three points.

"Every game is an opportunity and obviously this is one. We will try to take the game where we can hurt them and play the game we want to," said Simeone.

"They are a rival with great standing, a squad that is being rejuvenated, but with young players with experience and an exceptional level.

"It will be hard, difficult and we will try to achieve what we want."

Atleti have failed to win in their past 20 LaLiga games against Barca, with their only worst such run against Real Madrid between 2000 and 2013.

However, they are the only undefeated team left in the division and are on a club-record 23-game unbeaten run, while Barca have only been victorious in one of their past five top-flight outings.

*PUT BACK ON DRAFT - WAIT FOR SUAREZ ABSENCE CONFIRMATION*

 

As recently as January, Joao Felix's Atletico Madrid career appeared to be on a rocky road to nowhere – the previously much-vaunted 'Golden Boy', the club's most expensive signing ever, appeared to be at a loss.

Another big game had passed him by in the shape of the Supercopa final against Real Madrid, who emerged victors on penalties after a 0-0 draw – one Los Blancos dominated.

Even greater burden had been placed on him from late 2019, with Diego Costa ruled out long-term due to a neck injury, but Joao Felix simply couldn't meet expectations.

His struggles understandably led to much debate about the cause; was he finding it difficult to settle in? Was he actually the talent everyone thought he was? Or, as most people seemingly thought, was he just not cut out for Cholismo?

Media reports at the time suggested his team-mates believed Joao Felix was having problems settling in Madrid, but once football resumed after the coronavirus-enforced lockdown, encouraging signs were beginning to show.

And now, as Atletico prepare to host Barca and Lionel Messi on Saturday, few would consider anyone other than Joao Felix to be LaLiga's outstanding player in 2020-21.

Space? You can get lost in space

Joao Felix's arrival at the Wanda Metropolitano was met by the clamouring of Diego Simeone critics suggesting this was the signing that would finally see the renowned pragmatist cut loose and suddenly become the entertainer many hoped he could be.

It didn't work out that way. In fact, their haul of 51 LaLiga goals was the lowest they'd managed since scoring just 46 in 2006-07 – they somehow became even duller to watch.

This didn't do much to convince those adamant Simeone was to blame for Joao Felix's form – many people called for the young talent to be given a "free role" that allowed him to play without the shackles normally associated with the coach's rigid and disciplined system.

Yet, as average touch location maps show, Joao Felix generally operated largely in a less disciplined role last season than he has in 2020-21 – in 2019-20, he occupied spaces through the middle and on the left flank more than most, yet his time in the four zones within that area between the halfway line and penalty area were split fairly evenly.

 

This season, however, 22 per cent of his ball touches have been in a withdrawn area on the left flank, and 19 per cent in the next zone up the same wing. His role is demonstrably more structured yet he is proving far more effective as he wanders less, and this is evident almost across the board.

His tally of five LaLiga goals is second only to Mikel Oyarzabal and, at rate of 0.9 goals per 90 minutes, his frequency in that regard has trebled. His rate of 0.4 assists per 90 minutes is four times higher than the 0.1 for last term.

Joao Felix is now averaging 2.2 key passes every game (up from 0.8), while his records for passes, touches, open-play sequence involvement and goal-ending sequence involvement have all increased massively this season.

 

Suarez makes great players even better

Whether this clear change in role has been engineered by Simeone or Joao Felix himself is difficult to know without one of them claiming as much. Certainly, the Atletico coach has not alluded to such an alteration.

No, Simeone has instead highlighted the impact of signing of Luis Suarez from Sunday's opponents, saying earlier this month: "I believe that all this is generated from the presence of Suarez. With the likes of [Diego] Costa and [Alvaro] Morata before him, they had a lot of other characteristics, but we have been looking for other qualities.

"Luis has needed more people close to him, close to where he can hurt the opposition, and that is the team's goal."

Let's not forget, Suarez has spent years alongside the very best in the business in Lionel Messi, and the pair developed an almost telepathic understanding – as good as the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is, that doesn't happen just because of him.

Suarez is an assassin in attack, boasting off the ball intelligence like few other strikers have in the past 30 years – even if he's not as quick as he once was, the Uruguayan knows what runs to make, and when to make them.

For example, Joao Felix has created four chances for Suarez this season – that's already tied with the highest amount of key passes he played for a single team-mate in 2019-20 (Angel Correa), and one more than he laid on for Morata.

But herein lies a new test for Joao Felix.

Sunday is Atletico's first matchup with either of the 'big two' in LaLiga this term, but they will not be able to look to the finishing abilities of Suarez due to his coronavirus diagnosis.

 

Therefore, even greater onus will be on Joao Felix to provide the spark in attack for Atletico, potentially both as a creator and a finisher - thankfully for him, his positive xG differential of 2.4 suggests he has that capability.

Whether he inspires Atletico to a win or not, the fact such a possibility is even being considered less than a year on from him appearing utterly at odds with the club is a major triumph for Joao Felix.

Will Lionel Messi be a Barcelona player for much longer?

Messi, who has called Camp Nou home for his entire senior career, is reportedly eyeing a sensational exit.

And Manchester City are continuing to pursue the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI, CITY RUMOURS GROW

Lionel Messi's links with Manchester City are tightening following Pep Guardiola's renewal, according to Diario AS.

Messi was tipped to join City after handing in a transfer request at the start of the season, but the Barca captain opted to remain at Camp Nou.

However, with manager Guardiola extending his City contract, rumours are intensifying.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Premier League's 'big six' are interested in signing Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos. 90min claims Liverpool, City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham are eyeing the veteran defender, who is out of contract at the end of the campaign.

Milan could be set for a busy January. Tuttomercato reports Milan want Fiorentina defender Nikola Milenkovic on loan with an option to buy for €30million. Inter and Juventus have also been linked with the Serbia international. It comes as Rossoneri duo Andrea Conti and Leo Duarte face uncertain futures, while Salzburg sensation Dominik Szoboszlai continues to be linked to Milan.

- Kicker says Paris Saint-Germain are favourites to sign Bayern Munich's soon-to-be free agent David Alaba, who has also been linked to Madrid and City.

- Chelsea full-back Emerson Palmieri could join Juve in January, though Alaba and Atalanta star Robin Goosens are also options for the Serie A champions, according to Calciomercato.

Joao Felix apparently has no plans to leave Atletico Madrid for Paris Saint-Germain.

Joao Felix, 21, is enjoying a fine campaign with the LaLiga giants, having struggled during his first season in 2019-20 after his arrival from Benfica.

The playmaker has attracted interest from PSG.

 

TOP STORY – FELIX WANTS ATLETICO STAY AMID PSG INTEREST

Joao Felix is not thinking about leaving Atletico Madrid amid Paris Saint-Germain's interest, according to Record.

Signed by Atletico for a reported €126million last year, Joao Felix has started to star for Diego Simeone's side.

Only Mikel Oyarzabal (six goals and two assists) has been directly involved in more LaLiga goals than Joao Felix (five goals and two assists) this season.

Joao Felix has also created five big chances – the second most behind Sergio Canales – for Atletico, who are unbeaten in LaLiga ahead of hosting Barcelona on Saturday.

 

ROUND-UP

- Out of contract at Bayern Munich at the end of the season, David Alaba is expected to leave the Bundesliga champions. Marca reports the defender is an option for Real Madrid and a move is not dependant on Sergio Ramos' future with the LaLiga giants.

- Another Madrid defender, Raphael Varane, is also linked with a move. The Manchester Evening News says Manchester United may again look at the defender, who is contracted at Madrid until 2022.

- Isco's time at Madrid could finally be coming to an end. El Confidencial reports Isco, who is in his eighth season at Madrid, is on the market. Everton have been linked with the attacker.

- A decision about RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano's future could be close. Bild says a call could be made in January amid links to United and Liverpool, with his €45m release clause reportedly too much for Bayern.

- Mariano Diaz may be set for a Madrid exit. The Daily Mail reports West Ham have been offered the chance to sign the forward, potentially on loan initially.

Atletico Madrid have lost another player ahead of their LaLiga clash with Barcelona after Lucas Torreira tested positive for coronavirus.

Torreira, signed on loan from Arsenal in October, underwent PCR tests for COVID-19 after returning from international duty with Uruguay.

His Uruguay team-mate Luis Suarez is already self-isolating due to contracting the virus, and now it has been confirmed Torreira too has tested positive.

Atleti announced the news on their official website and added that Torreira – who has made seven appearances in all competitions for Diego Simeone's side – is asymptomatic and complying with quarantine protocols.

Torreira started in both of Uruguay's World Cup qualifiers, against Colombia and Brazil, during the international break.

Unbeaten Atleti sit third in LaLiga, five places and six points ahead of Ronald Koeman's Barca side heading into Saturday's meeting.

Luis Suarez has tested positive for coronavirus and is set to miss Atletico Madrid's LaLiga clash with his former club Barcelona.

The 33-year-old will also sit out Uruguay's World Cup qualifier with Brazil on Tuesday after contracting COVID-19 while away with his national side.

Uruguay confirmed in a statement on Monday that Suarez and team-mate Rodrigo Munoz, as well as backroom staff member Matias Faral, are all following coronavirus protocols.

The news comes five days before Suarez was set to take on Barcelona, the club he left for a nominal fee in September after six years at Camp Nou.

He has played nine times for Atletico since joining and has five goals in six LaLiga outings. Only Real Sociedad's Mikel Oyarzabal has scored more, having played a further three games.

Suarez's six league goals have come from 22 shots, eight of which were on target, both of which are the most of any Atletico player this season.

Speaking to Marca this week, Suarez reiterated his disappointment at being forced out of Barcelona during the most recent transfer window.

"I was sad and hurt by the way I left – I already said it," he admitted. "But when they close a door, five more open to you where they value my work, professionalism and trajectory. I feel proud. 

"Where they did not want me, there was another that wanted me. I found happiness and I'm enjoying this moment now."

Spain have confirmed Sergio Busquets has sustained a mild sprain in his left knee that will keep him out of Tuesday's Nations League clash with Germany.

The Barcelona midfielder was injured during Spain's 1-1 draw with Switzerland last week and was unable to take part in training on Sunday.

After undergoing an MRI scan on Monday, the extent of the damage was revealed by Spain on their official Twitter account.

Busquets is definitely out of the home match against Germany, which La Roja need to win to top Group A4, and is considered a major doubt for Barca's LaLiga showdown with Atletico Madrid next Saturday.

The 32-year-old has started all seven of Barca's league games this term and has appeared in all three Champions League matches.

His 321 passes in the opposition half in LaLiga this term is bettered only by Frenkie de Jong (325), Sergio Canales (332) and team-mate Lionel Messi (332).

However, Busquets' figures in other areas have dropped since last season, leading to calls for Miralem Pjanic to be given the nod in Ronald Koeman's starting line-up.

Busquets' passes-per-game figures are down from 93 per game last term to 80 this time around, while his number of dribbles (0.83 to 0.48) and touches (106 to 91) have also fallen.

Barca face Atletico and Osasuna in their next two LaLiga games, either side of a trip to Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League.

Giovanni Simeone has not ruled out a move to "second home" Atletico Madrid when he looks for a new challenge away from Cagliari.  

Simeone, 25, joined the Serie A side on a permanent deal ahead of the 2020-21 campaign after enjoying a successful loan spell from Fiorentina last term.  

He has started the new season in fine form too, scoring five goals in seven appearances to help his side sit 11th in the table.

Indeed, only Andrea Belotti, Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have scored more than him in the Italian top-flight, while he also chipped in with one assist and completed a team-high 75 per cent of his dribbles.  

Despite his permanent spell at Cagliari still being in its infancy, Simeone is already thinking about his next move and says LaLiga side Atletico – coached by his father Diego – holds a special appeal.

"I am enjoying Cagliari but I would like to be able to change at some point in my career, that would help me to keep growing," he told Marca. "Maybe in Spain or in England, which is another place that I like a lot.  

"I always say that being in other countries makes you a better player because leagues and teams are different and I would like to keep growing. 

"The feeling that I have for Atletico is different because my dad is there. I am obviously a fan of the clubs that he played for since I was a kid, but Atletico is a bit different. 

"Each time my father played for Atletico I have put on their shirt and been a fan. Since I was a child, I have felt Atletico is my home, even though I never played there and never lived in Spain really.  

"To have this feeling of a second home is a good feeling." 

Cagliari travel to champions Juventus on Saturday as Serie A resumes following November's international break.

Atletico Madrid have been paired with fourth-tier side Cardassar in the first round of the Copa del Rey, though Real Madrid and Barcelona are two of four LaLiga clubs missing.

The draw took place in La Cartuja, the Olympic stadium in Seville that will host the final next April, and is organised so that all LaLiga clubs avoid each other and are instead drawn with teams from the lower reaches of the Spanish football pyramid.

Atletico are the only one of the traditional 'big three' involved and face a trip to Tercera Division side Cardassar, who are from a small town on the island of Mallorca.

Sevilla, Spain's fourth Champions League representative this term, will stay in Andalusia when they go to Ciudad de Lucena and Valencia have been drawn against Catalonian team Terrassa.

Ties will take place on December 16 between the 112 clubs involved at this stage.

Madrid, Barca and 2019-20 Copa finalists Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao have byes to the third round due to their participation in the expanded Supercopa.

Athletic and La Real were unable to play their historic all-Basque final earlier this year as planned due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the match postponed indefinitely at the time.

Recent media reports suggest the match is due to be rearranged for April 4, 2021, two weeks prior to the 2020-21 final.

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