Diego Simeone has heaped praise on Saul Niguez, believing the Atletico Madrid midfielder is capable of filling the void created by the extended absence of Tiago Mendes.
Starting his second successive match for Atletico, Saul scored the winning goal in the 2-1 Copa del Rey victory over Reus Deportiu in midweek.
The 21-year-old could now get a run in the first team after Tiago suffered a broken leg in the 1-0 La Liga win over Espanyol, ruling him out for at least three months.
“It’s clear that Saul has heard a thousand times what I think of him,” Simeone said.
“He has absolutely everything. He can play anywhere in the midfield, he can score, he can pass well.
“We will be very demanding, because we believe that being demanding is the only way to make players like him grow.
“We expect an important match from him on Saturday [against Granada].”
Simeone also insisted he did not want any player picked to replace the sidelined Tiago to try to copy the Portuguese’s style.
“I don’t need Saul to be similar to Tiago. I want Saul to be Saul, Koke to be Koke and Gabi to be Gabi. If they play in that position, I’m not trying to find something similar to Tiago,” he added.
“Saul has different characteristics to Gabi in that position, Saul has different characteristics to Koke in that position, so when each of them play, the team will play to try and bring out their best virtues as a player.”
The game with Granada will see Simeone bring up a personal milestone, as it will be his 150th league match in charge. His main concern, however, is seeing his side extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to 12 matches.
“The truth is that I wasn’t very aware of this situation,” he said.
“Everything that has come about in this time is due to the work of the coaching staff, to the work of the players most of all, and also the possibilities to work with stability for almost four and a half years.
“That growth has been for all involved, so obviously, the 150th match is something great, but, nothing takes me away from thinking how Granada plays and, obviously, how difficult the match will be.”