Emotions, not clean sheets the key for Simeone

By Sports Desk June 22, 2020

Diego Simeone believes Atletico Madrid's defensive resilience is merely a by-product of the players' commitment to his footballing vision.

Atleti edged a 1-0 win over Real Valladolid on Saturday, the first time they have recorded back-to-back LaLiga victories since beating Real Betis and Levante either side of the mid-season break.

A return encounter against the latter opponents is up next for Los Colchoneros, whose previous away fixture ended in a 5-0 shellacking of Osasuna.

The departures of Diego Godin and Lucas Hernandez last year forced Simeone to remodel his backline, with Stefan Savic and Jose Gimenez stepping up to form a fine alliance at centre-back, while Kieran Trippier and Renan Lodi have proved shrewd full-back additions.

Backed up by the exceptional Jan Oblak between the posts, Atletico have only been breached 22 times in 30 LaLiga games in 2019-20, although Simeone insists he is reluctant to rely too much on this obduracy.

"There will always be mistakes, all teams make mistakes," he told a pre-match news conference.

"We must try to be focused and, with the best security we can offer the team, we have rotated.

"I am still convinced that the team's strength is the emotional convention of the group. This will be the way to reach the goals we want."

That goal, at least until August's mini-tournament in Lisbon to conclude this season's competition comes around, is securing qualification for the Champions League with a top-four finish.

The weekend result left Atleti in third, level on points with Sevilla immediately behind them and six better off than Valencia down in eighth.

More sparkling form from Joao Felix would certainly strengthen their hand after the Portugal youngster notched a brace as Osasuna were torn apart.

"He is a different player," Simeone said of the €120million recruit, who has endured a mixed debut campaign in LaLiga.

"We have always valued him, we have seen him in training and in games. Surely, when he grows up and can spend more time in situations that are decisive for the team, he will continue to evolve.

"He has all the important qualities to break a game. With his growth in the game he will grow even more as a footballer."

Experience is certainly not something Joao Felix's boss lacks.

If Atleti are victorious against Levante, Simone will equal Luis Aragones as the coach with the most LaLiga victories for the club.

"I did not know about this and, as I have already said, I do not stop on the path we are going through," he added.

"This is not the time to stop and look in the mirror; it is only time to work, win and continue in the best possible way."

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    Diego Simeone is looking for improvement from Atletico Madrid despite securing Champions League qualification once more.

    A 74th-minute goal from Diego Costa saw 10-man Atletico overcome Real Betis 1-0 on Saturday to qualify for the Champions League for an eighth straight season.

    Atletico had only played in Europe's top club competitions eight times in total before qualifying for the 2013-14 Champions League.

    But head coach Simeone is refusing to rest, eager for Atletico to continue growing.

    "I don't stop to analyse what is being done," he told a news conference, via AS.

    "We always seek to improve and grow and the only way is to give the club the possibility with our work on the field that they can manage the tremendous growth of the club in these years.

    "If there was a moment to qualify for the Champions League as it was, it was what happened in the match, because this is us.

    "They hit us and we got up and we always compete and we will continue to compete, having all the energy so that all four legs – fans, players, coach and club – we stay firm.

    "This is Atletico Madrid and I think that in the second half when it seemed that everything was going to suffer, we won."

    Costa's winner came 17 minutes after Atletico were reduced to 10 men when Mario Hermoso was sent off.

    Atletico are on a 16-match unbeaten run ahead of visiting Getafe on Thursday.

  • Setien says Messi needs a rest as Barcelona chase LaLiga title Setien says Messi needs a rest as Barcelona chase LaLiga title

    Quique Setien said Lionel Messi needed a rest as his "tired" Barcelona kept the pressure on Real Madrid with a 1-0 win over Real Valladolid.

    Messi set up Arturo Vidal's 15th-minute goal on Saturday as Barca moved back within a point of rivals and LaLiga leaders Madrid, who have a game in hand.

    But the superstar attacker played 90 minutes as Barca's busy schedule continued and Setien said afterwards that Messi needed a rest.

    "He probably will get a rest, yes," the Barcelona coach told a news conference.

    "I've mentioned it to him previously and perhaps today if we'd got a couple more goals, as I think we deserved, he probably would have come off to get a little bit of a rest."

    Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez, meanwhile, each played 45 minutes, with the Uruguayan replacing the France international at half-time.

    Setien, who said Griezmann had taken a "knock", feels Barca were tired after a third game in the space of a week.

    "I think it's mostly tired legs. It's less than 72 hours since we played our last game," he said.

    "It was very hot today and the pitch felt a lot bigger towards the end of the match. You could see that, a lot of players were not looking fresh on late in the game and they probably lacked that touch of intensity.

    "We've played many games and it's very draining and we have quite a few players who've played a lot of minutes so we can't blame our football, I blame mostly our tired legs for today's game.

    "Sometimes that can affect your decision making, but this is normal for the current situation we're in."

  • Costa on controversial Atletico winner: It didn't come off my arm Costa on controversial Atletico winner: It didn't come off my arm

    Diego Costa denied that his goal in Atletico Madrid's 1-0 victory over Real Betis was scored with the assistance of his arm.

    Atleti secured the win they needed to clinch a top-four finish in LaLiga on Saturday, despite playing over half an hour with 10 men following Mario Hermoso's straight red card for a foul on Loren Moron.

    Costa was sent on as one of a trio of attacking changes just before Hermoso's dismissal and, after Diego Simeone's side absorbed some late pressure, he guided Yannick Carrasco's free-kick into the bottom-right corner to seal the three points.

    Betis defender Marc Bartra played Costa onside but a lengthy VAR check was conducted to see whether the Atleti striker had used his arm in the process of scoring.

    The replays appeared inconclusive and the goal was allowed to stand, unlike first-half efforts for Angel Correa and Alvaro Morata that were chalked off with video assistance.

    "It would be one thing if they called it offside for my goal but it didn't come off my arm. I'm very clear it wasn't [handball] and I'm happy," Costa told Movistar.

    "It was a difficult game after Mario's red card. Our goal was to finish in the top four. Now we have that and we've got two more games we have to try to win to continue our good form.

    "I think it was a good sign that we scored from a set-piece. We were in control. What happened in the second half made it more difficult, but we had a bit of luck and got the win.

    "I don't know why we always have to suffer like this, but we always suffer and win. If we don't suffer, we don't feel right, so we're happy and we'll look for more glory."

    Referee Jose Luis Gonzalez Gonzalez maintained his decision to dismiss Hermoso after a trip to the pitchside monitor, but Costa felt a booking would also have been a fair punishment.

    "If they'd given a yellow card for Mario Hermoso then fine. I think it was on the limit and in the end the referee has to make the decision, but I think a yellow or red was fair," he said.

    Guido Rodriguez disagreed with Costa's assessment of the goal, claiming the ball clearly struck the attacker's arm.

    "We saw that when Costa scored it touched his arm, but they didn't make that decision, so that's how it was," the Betis midfielder said.

    "We played with a player more, looking for the goal, but we leave pretty annoyed because we couldn't get it."

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