These men aren’t Joao Felix, Koke or Luis Suarez, players who are expected to be at the level they’re at. They’re the players who live on the shoulder of the aforementioned three but have raised their game significantly this season.
Stefan Savic has been Atletico’s best centre-back, the most consistent, the safest, the one to contribute most on the pitch. He’s taken a step forward to become one of the true leaders in the Rojiblanco dressing room.
Mario Hermoso was close to leaving in the summer, but he stayed and Atletico are all the more grateful for it. He’s settled nicely into the back three often used, safe in defence and contributing going forward with crucial goals against RB Salzburg and Real Sociedad.
Yannick Carrasco, after struggling to return to his best after two years in China, is now in a good moment. He dominates Atletico’s left wing in both defence and attack, making himself untouchable in the Rojiblanco starting XI.
Marcos Llorente, after announcing himself to the world as a born-again offensive midfielder against Liverpool at Anfield, is in many ways the lifeblood of this Atletico team. Physically bestial and tactically flexible, he can play wherever’s needed and offers so much to the team.
Thomas Lemar is perhaps the most unexpected resurgence, finally coming into his own after two seasons without contributing much. No longer timid, he’s playing with a healthy arrogance and has added another dimension to Atletico’s right wing.