Diego Simeone believes LaLiga's engrossing four-way title race is good for Spanish football and insists leaders Atletico Madrid are only focusing on themselves following Barcelona's slip-up.

Barca missed the chance to go top of LaLiga on Thursday as they slipped to a stunning 2-1 home defeat against Granada, with coach Ronald Koeman sent off prior to Jorge Molina's 79th-minute winner.

It means Atletico lead Real Madrid and Barca by two points, with Sevilla just a point further back with five games to play.

Atletico visit Elche on Saturday prior to Madrid's clash with Osasuna. Barca face Valencia at Mestalla on Sunday and Sevilla host Athletic Bilbao on Monday.

But Simeone is solely concentrated on what his side do, rather than the fortunes of others in a title race that is a welcome tonic to the Barca-Madrid duopoly that has long since dominated LaLiga.

"It is novel and does good to Spanish football," Simeone told a pre-match media conference of the four-team battle.

"The possibility that several teams can win is good. We are in a four-way fight in which match by match takes on a more important value.

"With four teams so tight I can only think about the next game. Trust the players who have been having a very good season."

Asked about Barca's defeat, Koeman replied: "I saw the end of the match. A competitive match. But I was only thinking about the only thing that matters to us, which is Elche. A team that has changed and competes very well since [head coach Fran] Escriba's arrival.

"The pressure is always there. If you play second and the rivals have won, you have pressure, but if you play before you also have it. You have to focus on what depends on you and nothing else."

Diego Simeone took a share of the blame for a 2-1 defeat at Athletic Bilbao and reiterated Atletico Madrid must show they have the "mental strength" to be crowned LaLiga champions.

Atleti's title hopes suffered a blow at San Mames on Sunday as Inigo Martinez's header four minutes from time consigned the leaders to what could be a costly loss.

Stefan Savic had equalised after 77 minutes, netting his first goal in the Spanish top flight for almost four years, after Alex Berenguer gave Athletic an early lead.

Martinez had the final say, though, nodding in a corner after being left unmarked to leave Atleti just two points ahead of Real Madrid and Barcelona, with Ronald Koeman's men able to take over at the summit if they win their game in hand.

Simeone says his side must show they have the right mindset to win the title.

Asked if Atleti were feeling the pressure, he said: "The Spanish championship is usually won by Barcelona and Real Madrid, except in 2014 or another year when we were close.

"For much of the season we had an advantage of many points, but we understood that Barcelona and Madrid were not going to get out of the title dispute. Sevilla also appeared.

"Whoever has more mental strength will be closer to winning."

Simeone brought on the fit-again Luis Suarez, Joao Felix and Thomas Lemar just before the hour mark, with Atleti looking short of ideas.

Former Argentina midfielder Simeone took some responsibility for a flat first-half performance.

"It is clear that if this is repeated it is more of a problem for the coach than for the team," Simeone said. "When a coach does not solve that situation, he is doing something wrong. We will try to improve."

Barca won 2-1 at Villarreal earlier in the day, following defending champions Real Madrid's goalless draw with Real Betis on Saturday.

Diego Simeone warned Atletico Madrid must not relax in a "complex" LaLiga race after a 2-0 win over Huesca moved them back to the top of the table.

Angel Correa's deflected first-half strike and a Yannick Carrasco goal 10 minutes from time at the Wanda Metropolitano on Thursday sent Atleti three points clear of Real Madrid at the summit.

Atleti thrashed Eibar 5-0 last weekend after picking up only one point from the previous two games against Sevilla and Real Betis.

Simeone knows there can be no let-up from his side in the battle to be crowned champions, with six games to go including a trip to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Real Madrid's 3-0 win over Cadiz on Wednesday had temporarily nudged Atletico down to second place.

Atletico boss Simeone said: "LaLiga is very complex, we cannot relax, tomorrow we will take care of the Bilbao game."

He added: "There are four teams close to being able to close a great season, Sevilla are doing well, Madrid responded well yesterday and Barcelona are playing now.

"We are to think game by game and we are not going to change now. We think about the next game and we will try to move it forward."

Barcelona won 5-2 against Getafe in Spain's late match on Thursday, after Simeone held his post-game news conference, and Ronald Koeman's side remain very much in the title frame, with a game in hand and a home fixture against Atletico to come next month.

Simeone praised his players for the way they have reacted to slipping up against Sevilla and Betis.

"After Betis I said that the team was in a moment of resistance and is growing after that game," said the former Argentina midfielder.

Simeone reiterated that Atletico's withdrawal from a proposed European Super League was the right decision.

"The day before the decision was made, they already told us what was going to be discussed, it seems like a great decision to me." he said.

The Atletico Madrid players have released a statement to "convey our satisfaction" after the club withdrew from the European Super League.

Atletico were among 12 clubs who announced plans for the controversial new competition on Sunday.

But the tournament – a rival to the Champions League but with guaranteed participation for its founding members – quickly came under scrutiny.

Anger from fans, players, coaches, governing bodies, governments and the media soon prompted England's 'big six' to back out. Atleti followed, along with Inter and Milan.

Koke, the Atleti captain, posted on his Twitter page on Wednesday: "From the Atletico Madrid squad, we want to convey our satisfaction about the final decision to renounce the Super League project made by our club.

"We will continue fighting to help Atleti grow from our position through the values of effort and sporting merit that have always characterised us, so that all of you continue to see yourself reflected in those signs of identity.

"We continue to work hard, focused on the game tomorrow."

Speaking before Thursday's LaLiga clash with Huesca, Atleti coach Diego Simeone had earlier backed the club both in their decision to pursue the Super League and then to step back.

"I understood that the club was going to decide what was best for the club," he said. "The club has looked at our fans, employees, players, president – the Atletico family."

Simeone added: "We understand that this situation [the withdrawal] is good for everyone. We all belong to football – before being footballers and coaches, we are fans."

Diego Simeone was not prepared to criticise Atletico Madrid chiefs nor the premise of the European Super League following the proposed competition's collapse but backed the decision to withdraw.

Atletico were one of the 12 founding clubs to initially sign up for the tournament, which was announced on Sunday, but their plans crumbled within 48 hours.

The backlash was significant on Monday and then Tuesday proved pivotal, as English clubs took note of the passionate response from fans, media, players and coaches.

Manchester City became the first to withdraw, followed by Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham. Atletico, Inter and Milan followed on Wednesday

Atletico boss Simeone did not take the opportunity to openly criticise the plans during a press conference on the eve of Thursday's LaLiga clash with Huesca, as Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola did in previous days, but accepted it was the right decision.

Speaking of his talks with Atletico CEO Miguel Angel Gil Marin, Simeone said: "Going into what he told us is not appropriate, but we saw doubts about this situation and what happened later, last night, when the clubs began to leave the Super League.

"I was told after the last game, I understood that the club was going to decide what was best for the club. The club has looked at our fans, employees, players, president – the Atletico family."

When pressed for his own opinion, Simeone added: "Listen to what I said before. I was clear, concrete and true. There is nothing to hide.

"I was one of the first to be consulted after the match and I said that I absolutely trusted the club because they were going to do what was best for the club. We understand that this situation [the withdrawal] is good for everyone. We all belong to football – before being footballers and coaches, we are fans.

"They have known me for a long time, I do not like demagoguery or taking advantage of situations to strengthen myself.

"What I think, I tell the people I have to talk to. I do not like to express myself here."

Simeone still expects the events of the past few days to contribute to significant change in European football.

"Faced with seismic movements like this, something is going to change, for sure, I have no doubt," he said. "And for the better, don't get me wrong.

"When there are movements, the parties will have to get closer and find what everyone wants or wanted before."

Diego Simeone is confident Atletico Madrid officials will do what is best for the club amid talk of a new European Super League.

Reports emerged on Sunday claiming that 12 clubs – including LaLiga leaders Atleti – will compete in the new competition, a rival to the UEFA Champions League. 

Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Milan and Inter are said to be the other sides involved, though the proposal reportedly includes an expansion option to 16 or 18 teams.

UEFA responded strongly, insisting it will do everything in its power to block the plans, including banning the 12 clubs from their own competitions, while there has also been a suggestion that players involved may not be allowed to represent their countries on the international stage.

Speaking after his side's 5-0 thumping of rock-bottom Eibar on Sunday, Simeone said he had no doubts any decision made by Atleti would have the club's best interests at heart.

"We are prepared to train the clubs," he told a media conference. "Our club will make the best decision for our future.

"I am a coach and I am prepared to train wherever they tell me. I have no doubt that the club will decide what is best for us."

Atleti tightened their grip at the LaLiga summit with a clinical win over Eibar, who did not register a single shot.

Angel Correa put Atleti 2-0 up at the interval – his first brace in 273 games across all competitions for the club – before Yannick Carrasco added a third shortly after the interval.

Marcos Llorente then added a double of his own to wrap up all three points in style, the Spaniard's first helping him reach 10 LaLiga goals in a season for the first time in his career.

It marked just Atleti's fifth win in their past 12 LaLiga matches, but they still have a slender advantage over neighbours Real Madrid and Barcelona as they bid to win a first title since the 2013-14 season.

Atleti did not have a shot on goal until the 34th minute and Simeone was pleased with his side's renewed dynamism after the interval.

"Goals always generate enthusiasm and energy," he added. "The second half was not the same as the first; we were much more dynamic, precise, with more movements. Energy and winning always gives you strength.

"The most important thing is to be able to win. It is what gives you peace of mind for the next day."

Correa has now been involved in 17 goals this season across all competitions (six goals, 11 assists) – just one behind his best ever return for Atleti in a single season (18 in 2016-17 and 2017-18).

Simeone was pleased with the Argentina international's contribution after a season which has seen him feature in every LaLiga game.

"We have been working together for many years," Simeone said. "We understand when to talk and when to leave the footballer alone and the numbers speak for themselves in the confidence we have in him; he is the only one who has participated in all the games of the season."

Atletico Madrid tightened their grip at the LaLiga summit after cruising to a 5-0 win over rock-bottom Eibar at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Los Colchoneros' bid for a first top-flight title since the 2013-14 season had faltered in recent weeks, but just a second win in six games keeps them a step ahead of neighbours Real Madrid. This result meant Real stood four points behind Atletico heading into a clash with Getafe later on Sunday.

Diego Simeone's home side were poor for much of the first half, yet Angel Correa struck twice shortly before the interval to give them a healthy lead.

Yannick Carrasco and Marcos Llorente added gloss to the scoreline in the second half as Atleti extended their unbeaten home run over Eibar to seven matches.

Despite a dismal start, which did not herald a shot until the 34th minute, Atleti went in at the break two goals to the good.

Correa opened the scoring in the 42nd minute, prodding in at the back post after Hector Herrera headed on Kieran Trippier's corner.

The man who made the breakthrough grabbed a second goal just two minutes later, superbly turning Anaitz Arbilla after collecting Carrasco's pass before slotting past Marko Dmitrovic from close range for his sixth goal of the season.

The hosts extended their advantage four minutes after the restart, Carrasco latching onto Saul Niguez's long ball over the top, rounding Dmitrovic and rolling into an empty net.

Correa turned provider for Atleti's fourth in the 53rd minute, his low pull-back into the middle of the penalty expertly dispatched by Llorente into Dmitrovic's bottom-right corner.

Llorente scored his 11th LaLiga goal of the season in the 68th minute, controlling Carrasco's pass before firing a half-volley past a hopelessly exposed Dmitrovic as Atleti sealed all three points in style.

Atletico Madrid defender Stefan Savic will have to serve a four-game ban from UEFA club fixtures as punishment for his dismissal for violent conduct against Chelsea.

Savic was shown a straight red card after an incident involving Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger in the second leg of the Champions League last-16 tie at Stamford Bridge on March 17.

The Montenegro international has been disciplined by UEFA for "assaulting another player", as well as "directing abusive language at a match official".

Diego Simeone also received a warning over a late kick-off to the fixture, while the club itself received a €10,000 fine. Atleti were also ordered to pay a further €14,000 for "improper conduct of the team".

Atletico lost 2-0 on English soil – Hakim Ziyech and Emerson Palmieri scoring the goals – as the LaLiga side exited the competition 3-0 on aggregate.

Savic started all eight of his team's Champions League outings in 2020-21, with the dismissal against the Blues his third in the competition.

Diego Simeone called on hobbling Atletico Madrid to "resist" in their LaLiga title hunt as the club's injuries pile up following a 1-1 draw with Real Betis.

Atletico returned to the top of the table, ahead of defending champions Real Madrid and Barcelona, after sharing the spoils at Betis in a thrilling encounter on Sunday.

Yannick Carrasco scored their quickest goal of the season, timed at four minutes, 36 seconds, for Atletico. However, Cristian Tello struck back for European hopefuls Betis 15 minutes later.

Already without Luis Suarez, Marcos Llorente, Moussa Dembele and Geoffrey Kondogbia due to injury, Atletico saw star Joao Felix suffer an ankle injury, while full-back Kieran Trippier had to be replaced with a back injury.

As the injuries mount, Atletico head coach Simeone said: "In the second half we suffered. But I have footballers who give everything.

"We are in a moment of resistance. Resist, that's a word that appeals to me. Resist, like all of society in these difficult times."

Chasing four home wins in a row for the first time since April 2018, Betis had the better of the second half, though Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak stood firm when called upon and his counterpart Claudio Bravo made a superb late stop from Angel Correa to preserve a deserved point.

Atletico have scored 52 goals after 30 league games this season (1.73 goals per game). The last LaLiga winner with as few or fewer goals at this stage of the season were Fabio Capello's Real Madrid in 2006-07 (42 goals).

Correa has delivered 10 assists in all competitions this term, equalling the best tally in his six seasons at Atletico (level with 2016-17 campaign). The Argentinian has scored only four goals, however, which is his lowest tally at this stage of the season.

Oblak has made at least three saves in the last four games for Atletico across all competitions (14 saves on aggregate, four against Betis) – his longest run with at least three saves this season.

Simeone added: "We will see what happens, all the teams have a moment of irregularity and hopefully we have passed it after today's draw.

"We have maintained a firm and strong step this season as both Madrid and Barcelona have begun to recover so we will wait and see."

Diego Simeone said Atletico Madrid do not feel nervous after the LaLiga leaders slipped up, though he did question his team's intensity.

Atletico suffered a costly 1-0 loss to Sevilla on Sunday, which saw their lead atop the table cut to three points, though Barcelona could close to within a solitary point if they beat Real Valladolid on Monday.

Despite Jan Oblak's penalty heroics, Atletico lost to fourth-placed Sevilla in LaLiga for the first time since 2016 following Marcos Acuna's 70th-minute header.

Atletico have won just four of nine games, having threatened to run away with the LaLiga trophy earlier in the season but pressure is mounting on Simeone's side as defending champions Real Madrid and Barca close in.

"We have to keep working hard and taking a look at what we have to improve," Simeone told reporters. "We have to slightly question our intensity and we need to make sure we get back the intensity that won us so many games and prove the squad's talent and ability.

"We have a week ahead of us now that some players, because of bookings, will not be able to play. We'll try and prepare as well as we can, and we'll keep going game by game. That won't change my mentality at all.

"We can't accept what happened today but we also have to accept that we have to improve, and there are very negative stats at the moment."

Atletico have lost two out of their past seven games in LaLiga (W3 D2), as many as their previous 40 games in all competitions (W26 D12).

Simeone, though, shouldered the blame for Atletico's defeat away to Julen Lopetegui's Sevilla.

"If I make the change at 30 minutes in, that's because myself as the manager, I made the mistake in the analysis of the game, and we wanted to try and do something else, and we tried to make as many changes as we could to make sure we push forward," said Simeone.

"I think the team improved in the second half, we were much more competitive, and we improved a bit more closely as to what we can do. We knew it was a very level game, especially in the second half. We had the chance from Mario Hermoso as well as Angel Correa's chance which was very clear as well.

"We are a side that needs to win games like this and we knew that probably, it was my mistake because I made the wrong decisions before the game so that the team felt comfortable. In the second half we just weren't close enough to what we normally play."

Atletico captain Koke was critical of the referee for not reviewing Acuna's goal amid claims Lucas Ocampos handled the ball at the start of the goalscoring move.

"It was a clear handball for the goal and there was another handball [by Diego Carlos] which should have been a second yellow card," he said.

"We have VAR which has to be there to help out. Today wasn't our day. On other days it has favoured us, today it didn't go our way.

"This is a tough defeat but we tried everything. We struggled in the first half but in the second we had chances."

Atletico director Tomas Renones added: The handball is clear [by Ocampos] and referee should have seen it. It has hurt us, but Atletico are not going to complain, just keep working to stay top of La Liga."

Diego Simeone admitted there was no guarantee Joao Felix would be fit to face Sevilla in LaLiga on Sunday as he waited for news from the Atletico Madrid club doctor.

The 21-year-old forward came off injured before half-time during Portugal's 3-1 win against Luxembourg in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday, returning to Atletico with the problem.

According to reports, Joao Felix trained separately from the Atletico squad on Saturday, with head coach Simeone essentially powerless to influence the situation.

"For Joao, we are still waiting for him," Simeone said in a news conference.

"The doctor is looking for a way to see if he is in a position to help us and we will wait until tonight to decide whether or not he travels to Seville."

Atletico's lead at the top of LaLiga has shrunk to four points over Barcelona with 10 rounds of games remaining, and Simeone will want as close to a full-strength squad as possible.

Sevilla, who sit fourth, are a team capable of dealing another blow to Atleti's hopes of moving closer to the title.

Joao Felix has scored seven goals and had four assists in LaLiga this season, with Luis Suarez's 19 top-flight goals doing the most damage in attack for Simeone's men.

"The boys are working with great enthusiasm," said Simeone. "Whenever they come from the national team they come back with great enthusiasm.

"It is always very good for a footballer to be with his national team, representing his country, and defending the shirt where he was born, and I always believe that that is very positive for the preparation of a footballer.

"As for Sevilla, they are a team that play very well, who have [Julen] Lopetegui, a coach who makes them play in a very dynamic way, always looking for options of numerical superiority, where they can find it.

"There is a lot of variety in their squad, it must be one of the most balanced and balanced squads of all."

Sevilla will be without Sergio Escudero after the left-back tested positive for coronavirus.

Diego Simeone insisted it was "normal" for Luis Suarez to be annoyed after being replaced in Atletico Madrid's defeat to Chelsea, explaining the decision by saying his side "weren't at it up top". 

Goals from Hakim Ziyech and Emerson Palmieri gave Chelsea a 2-0 second-leg victory over Simeone's LaLiga leaders, who had succumbed to an Olivier Giroud goal in a 1-0 defeat in Madrid. 

Suarez mustered just one attempt and had only 19 touches before he was replaced by Angel Correa in the 58th minute at Stamford Bridge. After leaving the field with a bemused smile on his face, the former Barcelona frontman retired to the stands.

The 34-year-old has now failed to score in his last 25 Champions League away games, only one less than his tally of 26 goals in the competition. 

"It's normal that players are annoyed when you take them off," Simeone told Movistar. 

"We wanted to change things up top and find a different way to attack. I'm not looking for excuses. 

"They deserved to win over the two legs. The first leg was even, but they got their goal. Today they were better than us and deserved to win.

"We tried to find a way to score, but we weren't at it up top despite our effort."

With Atletico just four points clear of Barcelona at the top of LaLiga with 11 games left to play, Simeone addressed the suggestion that the Champions League was not his side's priority. 

He also reserved praise for standout performer Joao Felix, who went close to scoring late in the game for a visiting side that finished with 10 men, Stefan Savic dismissed for elbowing Antonio Rudiger. 

"It's easy to have regrets after the tie is over," said Simeone. "You can't have regrets, the game has gone now. We need to use it to learn. 

"We wanted to stay in the Champions League, but we didn't play that well in this year's tournament, but I'm very happy especially with how Joao Felix played today. 

"We looked to change our system, tried to press them, but they were able to get through it, they were just better than us. You can't say more than that. We need to improve." 

Atletico Madrid star Joao Felix has denied there are problems between him and head coach Diego Simeone.

The Portugal star has struggled for consistency at the Wanda Metropolitano and Simeone appeared to question his work-rate last week, although he later claimed his comments had been misinterpreted.

The €126million attacker is set to start on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge, where Atleti will attempt to overturn a 1-0 deficit to Chelsea in the Champions League last 16.

The 21-year-old, who has vowed to make sure he maximises his talent during his career, now hopes to prove there is a strong working relationship at the club.

"I'm happy here, my family are too. There are good and not-so-good phases everywhere," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"I had to defend for Benfica and the national team, too. I'll do what I have to do here.

"Without will, talent doesn't come through. Many talented players could not reach the top due to not having will and I don't want that to happen to me.

"The moment for me has to be all the time. We're strong because we're a very strong group. And that will be the case tomorrow."

Joao Felix caused a stir with a pointed celebration after scoring against Villarreal, in which he made a 'shushing' gesture, something that delighted Simeone.

The player himself says the incident was simply part of a joke with team-mate Renan Lodi, which was blown out of proportion.

"I already said on Instagram that it was a joke with Lodi. The press likes to talk about things they don't know about," he said.

"My relationship with Cholo is very good. He always tries to help me. We're here to help each other."

Atleti are unbeaten under Simeone in two previous Champions League trips to Stamford Bridge and have progressed from four of the eight two-legged ties in the competition in which they have lost the first leg.

However, a run of two wins in 10 away games in the knockouts does not bode well against a side who are unbeaten in 12 matches under Thomas Tuchel and have conceded only twice in that run.

Simeone hopes to turn that good form into a negative for Chelsea, who have had to cope with only minimal setbacks since Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard.

"I believe today Chelsea don't have a weakness," he said. "The only thing is they don't know what can happen from a negative point of view. 

"They have not had a negative result yet and that will be a question until it happens.

"We are facing a team that has done quite well since their coach has come, they have never lost. They feel strong at home and are playing quite well. 

"They have had games like us around the Champions League matches that have been close and tough. We have to take the match where we want so we can win with a goal. The single idea is to win."

Simeone is backing Luis Suarez to make the difference and end his barren Champions League run, the Uruguay striker having not scored in the competition this season.

Suarez's away run in the competition is of greater concern, the 34-year-old having failed to score in his previous 25 such games for Atleti and Barcelona since netting in a 1-1 draw with Roma at Stadio Olimpico in September 2015.

"I believe Suarez is very important for us," Simeone said. "Probably tomorrow is the right day for Luis Suarez to end the streak. Why not? Tomorrow could be a beautiful day."

Diego Simeone claimed that Real Madrid and Barcelona are unlikely to lose again this season, as he conceded it is normal for his Atletico Madrid side to feel pressure.

LaLiga leaders Atleti were frustrated on Saturday, as they failed to overcome 10-man Getafe and had to settle for a 0-0 draw.

Atleti had 72.7 per cent possession, their highest total in a LaLiga match since at least 2004-05, when Opta started to collect this kind of data.

David Soria was in superb form for Getafe, making seven saves – including a standout stop from Moussa Dembele – while Luis Suarez hit the post.

The result leaves Atleti six points clear of city rivals Madrid, though Barca would move within four points of Simeone's team should they beat Huesca on Monday.

Karim Benzema's double lifted Madrid to victory over Elche earlier on Saturday, and Simeone believes that neither of Atleti's title rivals will slip up again.

"We had the idea of winning again and continuing to have the advantage that we had," he told a news conference.

"The first half was not good, the game did not flow, there were no good transitions. In the second half the team improved and in the end had more chances to score.

"I maintain that the team is playing well, we have to be calm, it is a very difficult championship, Real Madrid and Barcelona are not going to lose any game from here until the end and we have to know what our path is."

Asked if Atleti were feeling the pressure, Simeone replied: "It is normal, we come almost the whole season being first. 

"There are 11 games left, they said that Barcelona was bad but against Paris Saint-Germain they could have won, they have a new president, enthusiasm and Madrid always manages to get the games won.

"We try step by step to continue our way, game by game, and we have two monsters behind us with the idea of being where we are."

Atleti's focus switches, temporarily at least, away from LaLiga for the next few days, with the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Chelsea coming up on Wednesday.

Thomas Tuchel's team, who are still unbeaten under the German, lead 1-0 on aggregate thanks to Olivier Giroud's stunning strike in the first leg last month.

Diego Simeone has clarified comments made regarding Joao Felix after recalling the forward for Atletico Madrid's 2-1 win against Athletic Bilbao.

Speaking on the eve of Wednesday's LaLiga clash at the Wanda Metropolitano, Simeone appeared to call into question the Portugal international's lack of work-rate.

"We are a team, not just one player," he told reporters. "We need everyone's contribution so that the team can function as a team, and that individuals and talent can excel."

Joao Felix has scored two goals in his past 16 games and was dropped to the bench for the 1-1 draw with Real Madrid at the weekend, but he played 67 minutes against Athletic.

However, Simeone insists his remarks were misconstrued as he was talking in a more general manner, rather than about the 21-year-old specifically.

"Either I express myself badly, they interpret me badly or they just do what they want," he said at his post-match news conference.

"I speak of a general will. It is the most important thing in life; without it, the rest does not exist."

Atletico's win over Athletic in their game in hand moved them six points clear of Barcelona at the top of LaLiga and a further two points in front of Real Madrid.

Iker Muniain gave the visitors the lead in the Spanish capital, but Marcos Llorente equalised in first-half stoppage time and Luis Suarez scored a penalty winner in the 51st minute.

It was just Atleti's second win in five matches in all competitions during a patchy spell and Simeone was pleased with the way they responded to a late setback against Madrid, when Karim Benzema equalised in the 88th minute.

"It was very important how they reacted after Sunday. We needed to return to winning ways at home," said Simeone, who has overtaken Luis Aragones for the most wins in charge of Atletico with 309 in all competitions.  

"What I liked the most was that it went from a bad moment with them the better team and well positioned, to us being on top. 

"The second half was very good, and we are now level with the others in terms of the number of games played."

Llorente's headed equaliser was his ninth LaLiga goal of the campaign, adding to his eight assists in what has been an impressive season for the Spain international.

Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes (26) is the only midfielder to have been directly involved in more goals in Europe's top five leagues this term than Llorente, who has emerged as one of Atletico's star men over the past year.

"Marcos, for a year, had no minutes. He was on the bench but continued training, working hard and had that will that leads you to be at this moment," Simeone said. 

"He is very important for us and surely for the national team as well."

Suarez won the penalty that he converted – the striker being tripped in the box by Unai Nunez – and has now earned Atletico 15 points from his 18 league goals this term.

That is four points more than any other individual has won their side in the Spanish top flight in 2020-21, but Simeone reiterated Atleti's title charge is a collective effort.

"I look to the group as a whole because individuals alone do not change a game," he said. 

"The team understood that we were not having a good time – they looked for order and then the group and the team generated a second half that we liked a lot."

Athletic were unhappy with the awarding of the decisive penalty and also argued that Llorente's goal should not have stood, coming as it did 17 seconds after the allotted two added minutes.

Marcelino, whose side are without a point away to Atletico since May 2015, felt the scoreline was harsh on his side as the hosts scored two goals from five shots on target.

"I am very satisfied with the performance of my side and I'm sad with the result because Atletico essentially took advantage of one hundred percent of their chances," he said.

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