Atletico Madrid playmaker Arda Turan returns to the side against Almeria on Saturday and coach Diego Simeone believes he is the missing link as they as they look to get back on track in La Liga.
The champions were on a high after crushing city rivals Real but were humbled by lowly Celta Vigo last weekend and lie seven points off the top of the table in third.
Atletico missed several players against Celta, including Koke and Raul Garcia, but Simeone singled out Turan’s absence.
“The other day we were without others like Raul (Garcia) but the absence of Arda is different,” Simeone told a news conference on Friday.
“Arda is a player that gives us rhythm and has the timing in order to combine the midfield with the defence, the wings and the attack.
“When he is playing well he causes a lot of problems, he is a fundamental player for us.”
The Argentine denied that the loss has affected morale in the team.
“We now go back to the Calderon where we beat Madrid two weeks ago and we are in front of our fans,” Simeone said.
“Except for the first half in Vigo the team is competing well in all the matches. Tomorrow we now have another game where we will try and play to our strengths.”
Despite ending the dominance of Real and Barca by winning the league title, Simeone says their battle this season has always been to finish third.
“I am convinced that this is our target. Our objective is (qualifying for) the Champions League and our rivals are Valencia and Sevilla. Possibly also Villarreal as they are playing well and have grown a lot,” he said.
“I have no doubt that our championship is the same as it was six months ago and is against Sevilla and Valencia.”
Atletico were beaten in the final of last year’s Champions League by Real Madrid and are still alive in this year’s competition where they face Bayer Leverkusen in the last 16 on Wednesday.
“At the moment we are just concentrating on Almeria which is very important as we need to continue the progression we are making,” Simeone said. “We are not thinking in rotating players.” (Reporting by Tim Hanlon, Editing by Ed Osmond)