Simeone toasts Atletico identity after 400-match milestone

By Sports Desk December 05, 2018

Diego Simeone has reflected enthusiastically on the development of Atletico Madrid's "identity" during his 400 matches as head coach.

The highly decorated former Argentina international celebrated the milestone with a 4-0 defeat of Sant Andreu in the last 32 of the Copa del Rey.

The second-leg success, which sealed a 5-0 aggregate victory, keeps Simeone in contention to claim his eighth major trophy in charge of the club he represented with distinction as a player.

Atleti have triumphed in LaLiga, snared the Europa League twice and gone agonisingly close to winning the Champions League since he took over in 2011, all while cultivating a robust, efficient playing style.

"I get a shiver of excitement thinking about it," Simone said of the achievement in quotes reported by Mundo Deportivo.

"The best thing is not to look back. Many people have left since I arrived.

"It makes me happy to improve as a team, as a club. I hope I can give it a lot of energy until I leave, because this club needs a lot of energy.

"The best thing is to have a club in which everyone - from the person that serves you at the bar through to the one that has just arrived or the oldest fan - knows how we play. That is to have an identity."

Atleti overcame a lacklustre first half on Wednesday to score four times after the interval as they eventually disposed of their fourth-tier opponents.

Thomas Lemar, Nikola Kalinic, Angel Correa and Vitolo shared the goals in an encouraging sign of the attacking resources still available to Simeone following Diego Costa's decision to undergo foot surgery in Brazil.

"Costa's injury is important for us. It creates opportunities for other kids to show their ability," the Rojiblancos boss said.

"Now we have options. Kalinic, Gelson [Martins], Correa, [Antoine] Griezmann. We will try to find the best for each game.

"As for Costa, he will be a great addition in February."

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    Diego Simeone had little desire to discuss old foe Cristiano Ronaldo as Atletico Madrid prepare to host Juventus in a mouthwatering Champions League last-16 clash.

    Ronaldo completed a shock €112million switch to Juve in July, having won four Champions League titles with Real Madrid and become the LaLiga giants' all-time top scorer.

    The five-time Ballon d'Or recipient netted 22 times in Madrid derbies but, speaking at a pre-match news conference, Atletico head coach Simeone was more inclined to focus on his own enviable batch of talent.

    "He made a decision to change and has picked a big challenge in going to Juventus," Simeone said.

    "But we're thinking instead about [Antoine] Griezmann, [Alvaro] Morata, [Diego] Costa, Koke, Saul [Niguez]...

    "They are excited and very keen to play a good game.

    "I feel excited about being in the Champions League, which is such a nice competition, against an opponent as powerful as this.

    "After not making it this far last year, we want to grow as a club and a team."

    Atleti made the most of dropping down to the Europa League after last season's group stages, going on to win Europe's secondary club competition.

    They were beaten in the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals by Madrid, in extra time and on penalties respectively.

    Juventus have also endured similar near misses in the modern era, coming up short in the 2015 and 2017 showpieces.

    "This is the last 16 and there's no trophy at this stage," Simeone said.

    "We face a powerful and strong opponent and a coach who has been at his club for many years, the same as is the case here.

    "They have players of great quality and status. We have tools as well to take the game where we want to.

    "Both these teams have a 50 percent chance. Neither side has a greater advantage than the other."

    Diego Costa is not ready to play 90 minutes, according to Simeone, having recently returned from foot surgery, while Koke (thigh) will be assessed.

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