Simeone: I don't think it will be just Ronaldo against Atletico

By Sports Desk November 25, 2019

Diego Simeone labelled Cristiano Ronaldo the best player in the world but warned his Atletico Madrid squad that Juventus are far from a one-man team.

Former Real Madrid forward Ronaldo has scored 25 goals against Atletico in all competitions, including a hat-trick when the sides met at the last-16 stage in the 2018-19 season.

The Portugal international drew a blank in the reverse fixture two months ago, though, and has struggled for fitness in recent weeks, making him a doubt for the midweek clash.

"He always played really well against us. He is the number one, an amazing player," Simeone said at Monday's pre-match news conference.

"He always know how to create problems to his opponents. But I don't think it will be just Ronaldo against Atletico Madrid.

"We are here looking forward to play in this amazing stadium. And we want to play a great game"

Juventus are already assured of a place in the knockout stages, while Atletico can join them in the last 16 should they pick up all three points in Turin.

However, Atleti have won just one of their last five matches in all competitions and Simeone is expecting another tough match against the Serie A leaders.

"It will be a great game against a very strong and demanding team," he said.

"We have a way of working, which is thinking about tomorrow's game. There are a lot of results that can generate satisfaction or not. Then we will look at the match that remains."

Joao Felix is part of Atletico's squad after returning from a month-long absence with a 15-minute appearance from the bench in Saturday's 1-1 LaLiga draw with Granada.

The Spanish club's record signing has scored three goals in 12 competitive appearances since joining, but Simeone talked up forward's importance to the side.

"He has been with us for a little while, he was injured a month ago and we couldn't count on him," Simeone told the media.

"We need him because he is different, with characteristics that we don't have on the field. With his humility, work and desire to improve from the first day, he will continue growing because he has talent and a lot it."

Atletico trail Juventus by three points but midfielder Koke, who played in the 2-2 draw between the teams in Madrid, has challenged his side to finish top of Group D.

"We want to play well at this stadium," he said. "We want to qualify and finish top of the group, if possible. 

"It's up to us. We’ll be up against one of the competition's best teams, so we'll need to be calm and play well to earn the three points."

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    Cristiano Ronaldo has labelled Kobe Bryant a "true legend" after the Los Angeles Lakers great died in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

    Bryant, along with his daughter Gianna, passed away along with seven others after the helicopter he was travelling in crashed near the Californian city of Calabasas in Los Angeles County.

    Figures from across the world of sport paid tribute to the former Lakers star – a five-time NBA champion.

    While Neymar dedicated one of his goals for Paris Saint-Germain against Lille to the 41-year-old and Lionel Messi also hailed Bryant, Ronaldo posted his condolences to Twitter.

    "So sad to hear the heartbreaking news of the deaths of Kobe and his daughter Gianna," Ronaldo tweeted.

    "Kobe was a true legend and inspiration to so many. Sending my condolences to his family and friends and the families of all who lost their lives in the crash. RIP Legend."

  • Sarri happy for Napoli despite Juve streak ending at old club Sarri happy for Napoli despite Juve streak ending at old club

    Maurizio Sarri said he was happy for Napoli after his former side inflicted a second Serie A loss of the season on Juventus, who missed the chance to move six points clear of Inter.

    Although Cristiano Ronaldo scored for the eighth game in a row, it was too little and too late for the champions after goals from Piotr Zielinski and Lorenzo Insigne put Napoli 2-0 ahead on Sunday.

    There were anti-Sarri chants and banners on his return to the Stadio San Paolo, but the coach was glad to see Napoli arrest their slump, even against his current club.

    "I am happy for the lads, as I will always be fond of them," he told Sky Sport Italia after Juve's five-game winning streak in Serie A ended.

    "If you have to lose, I guess I'd rather it be here to help Napoli get out of their current problems. I'd rather they started winning next week, of course.

    "Clearly, the game takes over and you have to detach yourself from everything around that. Napoli represented a special moment in my life and it's always pleasing and emotional to be back here.

    "We should have felt more motivated to break away [from Inter] rather than less, otherwise this will mean we are weak. I would hope not.

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    Napoli's first home league win since October followed a midweek Coppa Italia victory over Lazio, but head coach Gennaro Gattuso is not getting carried away with his side's improvement.

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    "I was angry at the Ronaldo goal, because we can't let anything slip at the moment."

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    Juventus suffered a 2-1 loss at Napoli on Sunday, ending the Serie A champions' run of five straight wins in the league.

    Piotr Zielinski scored the opening goal of the game midway through the second half, finishing on the rebound after Wojciech Szczesny pushed Lorenzo Insigne's shot back into the danger zone.

    Napoli had lost four home league games in a row but climb to 10th in the table after Insigne volleyed in a second, Maurizio Sarri's return to Stadio San Paolo ending in Juve's second league defeat of the season. 

    Cristiano Ronaldo hit a late reply but Juve missed the chance to move further ahead of nearest title rivals Inter and remain three points clear in top spot.

    August's reverse fixture was a seven-goal thriller, Juve 2-0 ahead inside 20 minutes though needing Kalidou Koulibaly's late own goal to seal a 4-3 win, but this time half-time arrived with a single shot on target.

    Arkadiusz Milik's tame header was comfortably saved by Szczesny with Napoli having had the edge in a strangely low-key opening 45 minutes.

    Juve lost Miralem Pjanic to injury shortly after the break, the midfielder having been hurt in a tackle from Diego Demme before the break with Adrien Rabiot introduced in his place.

    A late offside flag denied Ronaldo a 53rd-minute opener, the Portuguese then tricking his way past Elseid Hysaj to set up Gonzalo Higuain, whose low drive was stopped by Alex Meret.

    Juve appeared in control but Napoli broke the deadlock on the counter in the 63rd minute when Szczesny parried Insigne's 25-yard drive and Zielinski was on hand to convert the rebound.

    Napoli had penalty appeals rejected when Juan Cuadrado appeared to handle inside the box but the points were sealed by Insigne's strike that deflected in off Matthijs de Ligt in the closing stages.

    Ronaldo gave Juve hope, extending his scoring streak to eight games, but when Higuain's overhead kick flew straight at Meret in the 94th minute, Napoli had secured a famous win.


    What does it mean? Hope for Inter in title race

    Juve - who started with Ronaldo, Higuain and Paulo Dybala all in attack - would have been six points clear had they won, with yet another title surely within their grasp. 

    This result will be welcomed by Inter, who earlier in the day were held to a third straight league draw, while Lazio moved five points behind Juve after they drew with rivals Roma.

    As for Napoli, a first home league win since October may prove a turning point in their season with results having failed to improve since Gennaro Gattuso was appointed as Carlo Ancelotti's successor.


    Di Lorenzo stars as Koulibaly's deputy

    Giovanni Di Lorenzo was excellent in the heart of the Napoli defence, showing a calmness in possession and helping to keep Ronaldo and ex-Napoli striker Higuain quiet.


    Szczesny error proves costly

    With Gianluigi Buffon back on the bench after starting the midweek win over Roma, his replacement Szczesny made a bad mistake to hand Napoli the opening goal. Insigne's strike was not easy to deal with but Szczesny made a mess of his save, presenting Zielinski with a tap-in.


    What's next?

    Juve will aim to bounce back when they return to action at home to Fiorentina next Sunday, with Napoli away to Sampdoria a day later.

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