Atletico Madrid have been inconsistent to start the season and defeat to Real Madrid last Sunday confirmed their questionable trajectory before the international break. Once again, their defence is under the spotlight as Los Rojiblancos, traditionally so strong at the back, have conceded an average of over a goal a game.
Part of that is down to injuries. Key defenders Stefan Savic and Jose Maria Gimenez, who have missed more minutes than they have been present for.
One of the consequences of which is that summer signing Axel Witsel has been moved back to play in the middle of defence. Speaking in a press conference ahead of Belgium’s tie with Wales, Diario AS reported that Witsel would still rather be playing in midfield though.
“I still feel good enough physically in order to play as a central defender. I play more naturally there. In defence I have to be more alert, I have to run and stop more. It’s more difficult but it could extend my career.”
“I prefer to play as a six. Roberto Martinez has been clear with my position in the national team but if I have to play as a centre-back, I’ll be there.”
Increasingly Atletico Madrid fitness coach Oscar ‘Profe’ Ortega is coming under pressure for the consistent injuries at the club and Witsel also conceded he had never known anything like this preseason during his career.
“It was hard. I had trained well during the holidays. But I have never known a [physical] preparation so hard. It was quite intense.”
Although Witsel has performed well in central defence, the midfield at Atletico Madrid could also use his steel there. Currently Los Colchoneros seem to be unsure of exactly how they want to play and Witsel could give a bit more clarity in midfield.