BARCELONA, SPAIN (AP) — Time off appears to have been just what Joao Félix needed.
With two goals in three matches, Félix has given a much-needed boost to Atlético Madrid’s attack before they visit Liverpool tomorrow night with a chance to eliminate the reigning European champion from the tournament.
Atlético’s defence clamped down on Liverpool and ground out a 1-0 victory in the first leg of their round-of-16 encounter two weeks ago.
But at Anfield, the Spanish club will likely have a tougher time of keeping a clean sheet and need to do even more in attack. Félix missed the first leg while recovering from a right-leg muscle injury that sidelined him for four games. He can now join Álvaro Morata, Diego Costa, and Ángel Correa as options up front.
Atlético made a big investment for Félix last summer when they spent a club-record EUR126 million to buy him from Benfica, where had enjoyed a breakout last season.
But after a promising start, the 20-year-old Félix was clearly frustrated by a scoring drought before he was forced off the pitch because of the injury last month. Once he was fit again, he scored as a substitute in his return two weeks ago, a 3-1 win over Villarreal. He then struck another goal in his first start since coming back in last Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Sevilla. Before those two goals he hadn’t found the net since last December.
He played so well against Sevilla that some fans jeered Diego Simeone when he substituted Félix late.
“He had some cramps in his calf, but I couldn’t explain that to the fans,” Simeone said. “He played a good match, above all being consistent in his performance, although what makes our supporters happy is when he scores.”