How Atletico's Injuries Will Change Real Madrid's Champions League Outlook

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How Atletico's Injuries Will Change Real Madrid's Champions League Outlook
Daniel Ochoa de Olza/Associated Press

With less than 24 hours until kickoff, it looks as if both Madrid clubs will be limping into this year's Champions League final. After a long La Liga campaign—one in which Atleti came out on top—the two clubs have suffered a variety of injuries that affected team form in the final weeks of the season. However, recent injuries to Atletico stars will alter Madrid's outlook in the final.

In what was essentially a La Liga championship match last week at Barcelona, Atletico watched in horror as Diego Costa had to be substituted just 16 minutes in. The naturalized Spaniard pulled up with a right hamstring strain, providing much doubt for the visiting side.

Atletico watched in horror as yet another player, Arda Turan, pulled up with a groin issue barely five minutes later.

This double injury blow put Atleti in a dire situation at Camp Nouyet, Los Rojiblancos managed to pull off a remarkable comeback draw to secure the La Liga crown.

But with the Champions League final quickly approaching, their star players seem to be in doubt for the big day. Both Turan and Costa suffered muscle injuries, and timetables for full returns are never certain. The Associated Press, however, reported that the two trained with the squad on Friday, via USA Today.

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As Real Madrid deal with their own injury woes—Pepe and Karim Benzema to name a few—this unfortunate turn of events for their crosstown rivals should be music to their ears.

It's no secret that Costa is an important facet of Atletico's attack. With 27 La Liga goals, the striker finished third in the scoring charts, just behind Lionel Messi with 28 and Cristiano Ronaldo with 31. His form in Europe was quite similar. The 25-year-old scored eight goals in the Champions League—32 percent of his team's total, via WhoScored.com.

Without such a physical presence up front, Sergio Ramos will be free from engaging in a 90-minute wrestling match with one of the world's finest strikers. His defensive duties certainly remain, but Ramos will be released more frequently up the pitch, looking to improve on his remarkable scoring form. The central defender has notched five goals in his last six appearances for Los Blancos, an incredible offensive return for the Spaniard.

When Ramos is free to attack, the results are deadly.

Turan's absence could have a significant impact as well. The attacking midfielder spends time on either flank, and his contributions in Europe stand out. In just seven starts and nine appearances, the Turk has scored four goals and added an assist. His match rating of 7.21 overshadows his comparatively lower La Liga rating of 6.89, via WhoScored.com.

However, the vital component of Turan's play is not his offensive prowess, but his defensive contributions. Despite being known for his passing and dribbling technique in the final third, Turan tracks back well, averaging two tackles per game in the Champions League, via WhoScored.com. His commitment to defending will be missed by Atletico but could be thoroughly exposed by Madrid.

Real Madrid have the best counter-attack in the world, and without Turan clogging the wings, they should receive an additional boost in transition. Marcelo can counter up the left side and the movement will be improved.

Costa and Turan are key players in the Atletico side. Their offensive contributions cannot be underestimated. But even if both players see the pitch, there is little doubt that their impact will be diminished. Atletico's absent or diminished duo of Costa and Turan will swing the match in favor of Real Madrid, contributing to their lethal counter-attack transitions and relieving their defenders of strict defensive duties.

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