Jan Oblak available to return in goal for Atletico Madrid at Bayer Leverkusen
Atletico coach Diego Simeone has suggested that goalkeeper Jan Oblak will make his return in Tuesday's Champions League round of 16 first leg at Bayer Leverkusen.
Slovenia international Oblak returned to training with the Atletico squad late last week after two months following a shoulder operation, with backup Miguel Angel Moya deputising for the last 15 games in all competitions.
With Atletico also facing Barcelona in La Liga next weekend in what is possibly the most important week of their season so far, the coach told his pregame news conference in Germany on Monday evening that Oblak was ready to come back in if selected.
"Oblak has the medical all clear from the doctor and he has been training with us every day now," Simeone said. "He is here today, with the other goalkeepers who all want to make sure we play a good game. But until tomorrow we will not decide who plays."
Simeone did not confirm either whether up front he would pick Fernando Torres, who has started the team's last four games in all competitions, or Kevin Gameiro, who scored a quickfire hat trick off the bench in Saturday's 4-1 La Liga win at Sporting Gijon.
"It's always good and important for your forwards to score," Simeone said. "We always say that Fernando and Kevin are very different type of players. I decide who starts based on the opponent we have in front of us, or game we expect.
"Whoever does not start then always comes in gets plenty of time -- 30 minutes in each game. It is important to finish the game well, and useful to have three fresh players to keep pushing, and take advantage of mistakes by the opponent."
Leverkusen finished ahead of Tottenham in their Champions League group last autumn to eliminate the Premier League side, but are currently eighth in the Bundesliga after an inconsistent domestic campaign.
"We are going to face the best Bayer of the season," Simeone said. "I like how they play a lot, their coach works very well. They bring the ball out well from the back, and have good pace on the counter.
"The presence of [Kai] Havertz and [Julian] Brandt gives them good build-up play, and they have Chicharito [Hernandez] who moves very well and is hard to pick up inside the area.
"I respect this team a lot. We will have a tough game, we will have to see if they sit back or they look to come at us and press high."
Simeone said that he felt Atletico had improved through recent weeks, and were now playing more consistently than when their form dipped late last year.
"We keep trying to improve, to be more consistent, to find ways to be better on the pitch," he said. "The team has improved since the start of 2017, better than the end of 2016. And from there we try to keep that going. We still can improve, a lot, and we hope we can give that jump in quality."
The two teams met at this stage of the competition in 2014-15, with both legs ending 1-0 to the home side, and Atletico's Torres scoring the winning penalty in the shootout at the Calderon.
"Tomorrow we will face a team who always give what their coach wants -- a lot of intensity and spirit," Simeone said. "They were one of the most intense teams we have met in this competition in recent years. At home a team has a bit more courage, although I do imagine a team waiting for us to leave them space to attack with their pace.
"Talent is important, but heart and motivation have a bigger place in football. On this type of ties, the commitment is the most important element -- even more than way of playing or the tactics. That is what will decide these games."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan