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Malaga to Madrid, then short stay before flight departure

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I'll be traveling from Malaga to Madrid (I tentatively am thinking fast train) on March 22nd, then will fly out from MAD to Chicago the morning of March 24th.
I'm seeking recommendations for a convenient, affordable place to stay for the two nights, one which might be easily accessible when I arrive by train - give me a location for a quick visit of Madrid- and then not too much of a hassle to the airport on the morning of the 24th.
To that point, is it wise to stay in the Atocha area, since it is central and by the station?
and - Are there then easy, relatively swift transportation options from there to the airport, say between 8-9AM (I assume rush hour) on the Tuesday I leave?

Or- should I just fly budget airline in from Malaga, and stay somewhere closer to the airport to eliminate any transportation issues getting to my flight on the 24th?

Thank you in advance. All informed replies are welcome - as well as any other tips relating to a short stay in Madrid.

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