Atletico Madrid midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia is in contention to face his former club Valencia as his physical condition improves, according to head coach Diego Simeone.
Kondogbia is yet to start a match for Atletico since signing for them on November 3, but is in Simeone's thoughts ahead of Saturday's away LaLiga game with Valencia, who have won just one of their last six.
Atletico come into the game on the back of five straight league wins – four of which have come with a clean sheet - meaning they are only three points behind leaders Real Sociedad with two games in hand.
And Kodogbia is ready to play a greater role in their title challenge by building on his two substitute appearances to date.
"Kondogbia has many possibilities to play on Saturday," Simeone, who has lost just two of his 21 managerial games against Valencia, said about the 27-year-old.
"He has been growing a lot in training and we need him to have a high intensity.
"He is a very strong player, very big and needs to have a very good physical condition [before playing at his best].
"Before coming with us he had a period of inactivity and little by little the player we were looking for is being found."
Simeone was asked about whether Serbian striker Ivan Saponjic, who is yet to feature this season, could play at number nine depending on the status of strikers Luis Suarez and Diego Costa.
"Suarez is in the process of recovery, he will surely have little work left to do for him to be with us," added Simeone, with the former Barcelona forward nearing a return after contracting coronavirus.
"The doctor will explain Diego's situation. Costa is very important to us both in the dressing room and on the pitch, we need him "
The omens are good for Atletico, as Valencia have failed to win any of their last 11 LaLiga games against them (losing six), since a 3-1 win in October 2014. It is the hosts' longest active winless run against a top-flight opponent.
Simeone's men are also unbeaten in their last 11 league away games, their longest run without a defeat in the competition since 2017.