Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone says his team will be missing "a leader" with centre-back Diego Godin's hamstring injury being confirmed just as their La Liga and Champions League bids reach a decisive stage.
Atletico go into Saturday's La Liga game at home to Malaga at the Estadio Vicente Calderon trailing leaders Barcelona on head-to-head record alone, while they are a point ahead of third-placed Real Madrid.
They must, however, plan without key defender Godin, who injured a hamstring in Wednesday's 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao, and is also set to miss next Wednesday's Champions League semifinal first leg at home to Bayern Munich.
Godin has picked up a "grade I-II" thigh muscle injury in his right leg, Atletico's medical team have said, although in better news another centre-half, Jose Maria Gimenez, has been declared fit following his hamstring problem and is now available for selection.
The Colchoneros coach told a news conference that he hoped to have Godin back as soon as possible, but he had faith in those other players who will now come in.
"Without Godin we lose a leader," Simeone said. "He is a really important man within the group, but at the same we have players who are doing well, and Gimenez is back with us. We hope to have [Godin] back as soon as possible, and in the best way. For now there are other players who are doing very well."
Montenegro international Stefan Savic has returned from injury recently, and on Wednesday formed an impressive partnership with youngster Lucas Hernandez, a 20-year-old who barely played for the first team over the first six months of the season but has now featured in Atletico's last seven games in all competitions.
"[Hernandez] has had the good fortune and also difficulty of having good centre-halves around him," Simeone said. "That has limited his opportunities but he always worked hard and wanted to improve. The most important thing is that he has no fear. He is young and will make mistakes, but he has no fear and that is really important in our team."
Atletico have won three of their last four home meetings with Malaga, but they did draw 1-1 at home to the Andalusian side when they won another three-way title race in 2013-14.
Malaga are now safe in mid-table with little to play for over the last four games, but Simeone said he expected a tough game as players at other clubs always upped their performance when facing one of the top sides.
"To play against Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico, who are fighting for the title, is a good shop window for a player even if they have nothing on the line," he said. "Footballers always want to play well as they know many people are watching. It is a very important game for us, in a nice end to the season. We must be prepared and just for this game."