Atletico Madrid’s prodigal son Fernando Torres could make his return in a heated derby with Real Madrid on Wednesday in the last 16 of the King’s Cup if he looks sharp in training, coach Diego Simeone has said.
The former Atletico captain, who played 244 games for his home-town club where he debuted aged 17, has signed an 18-month loan deal from AC Milan which will become effective when the Italian transfer market opens on Monday.
“He will train with us, play a bit of football and we will see how he is,” Simeone told a news conference.
Torres, nicknamed El Nino (The Kid), was an Atletico emblem who left the stuttering club in 2007 to seek his fortune at Liverpool and Chelsea and has now returned to a side that broke the monopoly of Real and Barcelona by winning La Liga last season.
The success under Simeone has brought a new perspective to the Madrid derby which Real had become used to winning at a canter.
Last season Atletico suffered an excruciating extra-time defeat in the Champions League final against Real but beat their city rivals in the Spanish Super Cup, this season’s curtain raiser.
Atletico have reacted well to the loss of key personnel ahead of this season and lie third in La Liga but face a stern test of their mettle this week.
First they have the first-leg visit of Real, whose Spanish record 22-match winning streak was ended in a La Liga defeat at Valencia on Sunday, followed by a trip to Barcelona in the league next weekend.
“We are calm having got the victory and now we will prepare for the cup game which is very important for us,” Simeone said after Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Levante in La Liga.
“Then we will start thinking about Barcelona but with the same mentality as ever.”
Real also have a testing run of games which started with the Valencia reverse but coach Carlo Ancelotti has said he will give equal importance to the league and cup.
“We don’t have a priority. We will concentrate on the next game and we will put out the best team possible,” Ancelotti told a news conference, while acknowledging there might still be rotation.
“It will be necessary to rest players so as to avoid injuries and have the squad more motivated.”
Elsewhere, Barcelona have a seemingly easier passage into the next round of the cup against La Liga bottom side Elche, with the first leg on Thursday.