Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez has warned his team-mates of the perils of taking Cordoba lightly on Saturday.
The 20-year-old, who has shown significant promise in his 14 Liga appearances this season, has returned to training after sustaining an injury against Bayer Leverkusen in the UEFA Champions League.
Atletico went on to qualify for the last eight of Europe’s premier club competition and the return of Saul is a further boost to a club that will have been buoyed by coach Diego Simeone signing a new five-year deal.
Retaining Simeone is key for an Atletico side who are already financially disadvantaged against the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Last season’s champions sit fourth in the table, nine points off Luis Enrique’s leaders, and will hope to leapfrog Valencia – in third, one point above them – with victory at rock-bottom Cordoba.
Cordoba seem resigned to relegation, seven points off safety with 10 games left, but a result against Atleti could be the boost they need.
And for that reason, Saul described the match as a “trap” for Atletico.
“I’m very happy to be back training with the team-mates [and] feeling [like] a footballer again,” Saul told Atletico’s official website.
“I think that this match [against Cordoba] is a trap.
“We must not relax at all, because Cordoba is a team that, especially at home, has complicated things for big teams.”
Cordoba have lost their last nine matches, including four at home – all by a 2-1 scoreline.
But Real needed an 89th-minute winner from Gareth Bale to beat them in January, while Valencia also scored in the latter stages to claim victory in February.
Atletico are unbeaten in the league since a surprise defeat at Celta Vigo in February, but three of their five matches since have been draws.
And two of those occasions were 0-0 draws away from home. Atleti have not scored an away goal in La Liga since January.
Simeone will hope that one of Antoine Griezmann (14 league goals) or Mario Mandzukic (12) – or both – can end that unwanted run on Saturday.
Atletico won the earlier meeting this season, edging an entertaining 4-2 clash in the capital that saw five goals scored in the second half.
Griezmann was on target twice for Atleti, but Nabil Ghilas was also at the double for Cordoba, making him a man Simeone’s men will be wary of on this occasion.
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