Blunt Atletico look to Morata for elusive scoring touch
Morata will face Juventus in the Champions League on Tuesday having hit six goals in his last seven games for Atleti but his precision stands alone in a squad that is failing to fulfil hopes for a more attacking style this season.
In total Morata has seven goals, almost a third of his team’s 22 in all competitions and in the last month, that dependence has increased. Atletico has scored 10 goals, of which Morata has claimed six.
His form has earned him a recall to the Spain squad and, despite a number of options being tried, he is now the outstanding favourite to lead the line for Luis Enrique at Euro 2020 next year.
Morata’s season started slowly, with as many red cards as goals, a needless sending off at the end of a 2-0 win over Mallorca meaning he was suspended for the city derby against Real Madrid.
His indiscipline coincided with a period of frustrating results for Atletico too and when Diego Simeone was asked about revival, his answer was seen by some as a message to his number nine.
“There are some that look for people to blame and some that want to work,” Simeone said. “Only the second lot will get on with me.”
Morata has responded and in truth few could argue with his record since he returned to Spain from Chelsea, initially on loan in January and then permanently in the summer. It currently stands at almost a goal every two games.
At Chelsea, Morata became associated with streaks more than consistency before confidence sapped away and the faith of coaches, and then fans, disappeared.
Morata may be settled
From Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid to Massimiliano Allegri at Juventus and then Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea, Morata has been never truly established himself as a scorer to be relied upon.
Yet at 27, his best years should still be ahead of him and in Atletico he may finally have found somewhere he can settle.
When Morata signed, the club highlighted his connections, as a childhood fan, graduate of the youth teams and ball-boy at the Vicente Calderon. “With the enthusiasm of a kid,” he wrote, under a photo of himself as a child, wearing the Atletico shirt.
He is delivering now and while his own challenge will be to sustain it, Atletico must find a way to share the load.
Diego Costa is out of form and currently out injured, expected to need around three months to recover from a cervical disc injury.
The supremely talented Joao Felix returned from injury against Granada on Saturday but he is 20 years old and will need time. Angel Correa has managed one goal, Vitolo the same.
Simeone was asked last week if he might consider additions in the January transfer window but Valencia are unlikely to let Rodrigo Moreno, a summer target, leave mid-season. Alternative, quality options, will be hard to find.
It means Atletico’s best hope could be to rely on familiar strengths at the back, particularly against Juventus, who will secure first place in Group D with a victory.
Chances are likely to be few and far between. Atletico and Morata will have to take them.
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