Atletico Madrid consolidated their Champions League qualification hopes with a 2-0 win at Elche in Diego Simeone's 400th LaLiga game in charge of the club.

Simeone's side battled to a 1-0 victory over rivals Real Madrid on Sunday, and were soon ahead at Estadio Martinez Valero when Matheus Cunha opened the scoring in the first half.

Rodrigo de Paul added a second after the interval and Elche rarely threatened Jan Oblak's goal in response, failing to have a shot on target all game/until the Xth minute.

It mattered little for the boisterous home crowd as Real Mallorca's stalemate at Sevilla on Wednesday confirmed safety for Elche, while Atletico climbed into third – six points clear of fifth-placed Real Betis with two games to go.

Sime Vrsaljko was forced off with injury after just six minutes before Cunha curled a presentable opportunity over in the opening exchanges.

Elche had scored two of their last three league goals from set-pieces and both Lucas Boye and Pedro Bigas headed narrowly off target from corners, but Atleti struck first.

Cunha opened the scoring after 28 minutes when substitute Renan Lodi latched onto Antonio Griezmann's lofted pass to drill across for the Brazil forward to poke home.

Elche fans were in celebratory mood after the interval as news filtered through of Mallorca's stalemate with Sevilla, while Bigas had to clear off the line as Cunha's deflected strike looped goalward.

A slick passing move resulted in Atletico doubling their lead and sealing victory, with De Paul exchanging a quick one-two with Griezmann, who unselfishly squared for the midfielder to tap-in.

Substitute Luis Suarez was denied his 12th goal of the LaLiga season by the offside flag in stoppage time, as Atleti cruised to victory.

What does it mean? Milestone man Simeone continues Elche dominance

Simeone's side eased to their 10th straight LaLiga victory over Elche, who have not defeated Atletico in all competitions since March 2002.

Victory capped a special day for Simeone, who became just the third manager to coach 400 LaLiga games with a single club, winning 244 of those matches across his 11-year spell in the Spanish capital.

Atletico have all but secured Champions League football for next season, with Betis requiring a remarkable turnaround in the last two games to earn a place in the top four.

 

Lovely Lodi

Lodi was named among the substitutes but was soon introduced following the injury to Vrsaljko, and the substitute offered Simeone a timely reminder of his qualities. 

The Brazil international was at his creative best down the left flank, supplying a game-high three chances in a dominant performance against Elche's right-back Helibelton Palacios.

Goalless Griezmann

Griezmann played a vital role in Atletico's goals, delicately chipping to left wing-back Lodi prior to his assist and teeing up De Paul when one-on-one with Edgar Badia, but the France star's woes in front of goal continued at Elche.

The forward has failed to score in his last 13 league appearances, his longest goal drought in a single season in LaLiga since January 2012 (14 – his longest run without scoring in a single season in the top-flight).

What's next?

Atletico can confirm their top-four spot by defeating fourth-placed Sevilla at home on Sunday, while Elche visit Celta Vigo on the same day.

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone backed "one of the best in the world" Antoine Griezmann to return to form, while he offered his support for Luis Suarez amid a lean spell.

Simeone's side sit fourth in LaLiga, four points clear of fifth-placed Real Betis and appear set to secure Champions League qualification.

However, the form of forward Griezmann and the out of favour Suarez has come under scrutiny in the absence of the injured Joao Felix.

Griezmann has just three LaLiga goals in 21 appearances this season, finding the net once every 448 minutes on average, and has not scored in his last eight league games.

But Simeone insists the France international needs just one strike to regain his confidence as Atletico prepare to visit Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

"Antoine is not converting goals in recent games, his performances have not been what he is accustomed to," Simeone told reporters at a pre-match news conference on Friday.

"He is one of the players with the most goals in the history of Atletico... He always works, he is always committed to the collective work of the team, I have no doubt that he will come out of this situation. 

"It's Griezmann, one of the best in the world, what he needs is to find a goal, which will give him confidence. From that, we will see the Griezmann who we were used to in previous years."

Only Fernando Torres (102 in 281 games) has more goals than Griezmann for Atletico in LaLiga history, the latter scoring 97 times in his 201 appearances for the club.

 

Suarez's form has also been a concern for Simeone, with the Uruguay international limited to appearances from the bench and scoring just twice in his last seven league games (both against Alaves).

The former Liverpool and Barcelona talisman is still Atletico's joint-top scorer this season, his 11 LaLiga goals only matched by Angel Correa, and Simeone hopes Suarez will soon find his feet again.

"I have no doubt that Luis will always score goals, with his team-mates, when he plays, in the Uruguayan team... because he has the ability to score," Simeone added.

"Hopefully if he comes in from the start or comes on in the game, he will make his mark on them. It's what he wants, what he feels, and what he lives off."

Suarez has failed to score in his last five away games against Athletic in the Spanish top flight, having previously netted on his first two visits to San Mames in LaLiga – both in 2015 with Barcelona.

Whether Suarez can regain his confidence against Marcelino's side remains to be seen, but Simeone knows the Basque side will pose a tough task.

"Marcelino is a very good coach, he makes his teams play well and that makes them complex to face," he continued.

"Also, whenever we have faced him he has very good teams, which usually have very good footballers. 

"This means that the matches are tight due to the characteristics of the team that Marcelino creates. I can't imagine a match that isn't tight."

The final matchday of the Champions League quarter-finals has arrived, with Liverpool and Manchester City in touching distance of the last four.

The Premier League pair played out a thrilling 2-2 draw in what many billed as the title decider on Sunday, but their attention now turns back to Europe as they hunt yet more silverware.

Liverpool, if uncomfortable at times, managed a 3-1 victory at the Estadio da Luz, while City hold a slender 1-0 advantage heading to the Wanda Metropolitano against Atletico Madrid.

Here, Stats Perform unpacks the pick of the data from a decisive Wednesday in UEFA's flagship club competition.

Atletico Madrid v Manchester City: Simeone's side must end home hoodoo

City make their first ever trip to Atletico in European competition having won just three of their last 11 away games against Spanish side – though Pep Guardiola's team won their most recent visit to Real Madrid (2-1 in February 2020).

The Premier League leaders do so with a narrow 1-0 first-leg lead, thanks to Kevin De Bruyne, after Atletico lost the first away leg of a Champions League knockout tie for a fourth time.

Simeone's side, though, may take confidence from the fact they have progressed on two of the three previous occasions they have lost the first leg away from home.

But the reigning LaLiga champions will have to turn around their torrid home form in the competition if they are to do so, given they are winless in their last seven home games in Europe.

The compact setup that many branded as negative will also have to make way for Atletico to compete, after they failed to record a single shot in the first meeting at the Etihad Stadium.

The fewest attempts across two-leg Champions League knockout ties is four (Shakhtar Donetsk v Bayern Munich in 2014-15), since Opta began recording in 2003-04, while the only team to have failed to record a shot on target across two legs in this period was Deportivo La Coruna in the 2003-04 semi-finals against Porto.

Simeone will look to Antoine Griezmann to make the difference, with the forward one goal away from overtaking David Trezeguet (29) for the fourth-most strikes by a Frenchman in the competition.

Meanwhile, City will reach the landmark of 100 games in the Champions League, having won 55 of their first 99 – only Real Madrid have triumphed more in their first 100 matches (57).

Liverpool v Benfica: Formidable Reds lucky Portuguese omen

The omens will be good if Liverpool can progress past Benfica here, given they have gone on to win the competition on the last two occasions they have won both legs in a European Cup or Champions League knockout tie against the Portuguese side, doing so in 1977-78 and 1983-84.

The Reds have won each of their last five games against Portuguese sides in Europe's premier club competition, scoring 16 goals and only conceding three times. 

Indeed, they are unbeaten in nine games against teams from Portugal in the competition since Benfica won at Anfield in March 2006 (W7 D2), as they eye a third Champions League semi-final under Jurgen Klopp.

That is as many times as the Reds had managed to do so prior to Klopp taking charge (2004-05, 2006-07 and 2007-08, all under Rafa Benitez), with the German somewhat of a knockout specialist.

There is no denying Liverpool are heavy favourites; they have progressed from each of their last 12 ties in the Champions League knockout stages after winning the first leg, since a 2001-02 quarter-final loss to Bayer Leverkusen, who lost 1-0 in the first leg before winning 4-2 in the return meeting.

Central to Klopp's plan will be the seemingly out of form Mohamed Salah, whose next home goal will see him overtake Steven Gerrard (14) for the most goals by a Liverpool player at Anfield across the European Cup and Champions League.

While only two teams have ever won by more than one goal away to Liverpool in the latter stages of the competition, one of those occasions was Benfica in a 2-0 victory in the last-16 in 2005-06.

Darwin Nunes will be the key, with the forward scoring five times in nine European appearances this season – no player has ever netted more in a single Champions League campaign for the Primeira Liga side.

Diego Simeone acknowledges his inability to find a winning formation is the key to Atletico Madrid's below-par season, as the LaLiga champions prepare to welcome Antoine Griezmann back.

Atletico won the title last year and appeared primed for back-to-back successes when they recruited well while Real Madrid and Barcelona saw only limited transfer business.

Rodrigo De Paul arrived from Udinese and Matheus Cunha from Hertha Berlin, before Griezmann returned on loan from Barca.

Although Griezmann scored only three league goals before sustaining a hamstring injury at the start of January, Atletico have thrived in attack. With 42 goals, they rank third in LaLiga.

By contrast, however, the defensive bedrock on which Simeone's success has been built appears to be no more. Only seven teams have conceded more than their 33 through 23 matches – Atletico's most at this stage of a season under Simeone.

Shipping two or more goals in eight of their past nine league matches, Atletico enter Wednesday's game against Levante outside of the Champions League places in fifth.

Given late winners from Mario Hermoso have rescued results in two of their past three games, contributing to a league-high 15 points won with goals scored in the final 15 minutes of matches this season, Atletico's position could be even worse.

 

Simeone continues to seek a solution for his side's poor form, but he believes this might actually be the problem.

The Atletico coach, who deflected questions on his future after "10 wonderful years" in Madrid, said ahead of the Levante match: "There are many years playing in the same way, but every year is not the same.

"After the pandemic, when everyone saw us out of the Champions League, after the game with Liverpool, we were four or five points behind those above us, and it was very difficult with 11 matchdays to go.

"The team followed a plan in the 4-4-2, and we won eight games and drew three, and you saw on the field what the team wanted to do.

"Last season we started with the 4-4-2, we saw that we needed a change. We went to 5-3-2, and following that line, the team had a plan and took it forward in a good way.

"This season, I take responsibility, I was continuously changing in search of better things. Let's see if I choose well now and they follow the path I will choose."

While Atletico's issues are clearly at the back, the attack is only set to get stronger with Griezmann's involvement. He will not feature against Levante, though.

"We are happy to have Griezmann back," Simeone said. "He is coming back on Thursday to train with the team. We will have him soon for the Osasuna game [on Saturday].

"Apart from [Angel] Correa and Matheus, who are doing a great job, we also have Luis [Suarez], Joao [Felix], very important players in a decisive position. The more competition between them, the team will always win."

Antoine Griezmann is hoping to see out the remainder of his career with Atletico Madrid after conceding that his spell with Barcelona did not pan out as he had hoped.

The France international re-joined Atletico in August on an initial loan with an obligation to buy after spending just two years at Camp Nou.

Barcelona spent €120million to sign Griezmann from LaLiga rivals Atleti in 2019, but the 30-year-old never managed to recapture his best form in Catalonia. 

He made 102 appearances for Barca in all competitions – six more than any other player during his time at the club – and was directly involved in 51 goals.

Only Lionel Messi (106), who himself departed for Paris Saint-Germain in the last transfer window, scored and assisted more goals for Barca over that period.

However, it was at Atletico where Griezmann had the most prolific spell of his career when scoring 133 goals in 257 games between 2014 and 2019.

The Real Sociedad academy product has scored eight goals and assisted two more in 19 games since returning to the Wanda Metropolitano – no Atleti player has been involved in more goals.

Back playing where he feels most comfortable, Griezmann sees no reason to move away from the Spanish capital for a second time.

"The truth is that I performed well at Real Sociedad, then I grew athletically and also privately at Atleti, with my wife, with my children... That helps you be more relaxed and enjoy everything," he told Transfermarkt. 

"Then I went to Barcelona. Because of the circumstances, things didn't go as well as I had hoped. That's why I wanted to come back, to play for Cholo [Diego Simeone] and Atleti again. 

"That's what I wanted the most, and the truth is that I'm really enjoying it here and I hope I can continue like this.

"I hope Atleti want me as long as I can keep up with the pace of the games and the demanded level, and that we can write another beautiful story."

 

Griezmann has been linked with an array of European heavyweights in the past, including Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, but he has not considered a move to Germany.

"I've never thought about it, because since my time at Real Sociedad I've always felt comfortable where I was, and in the end, I feel most comfortable and happy here at Atleti now," he said. "I don't want to move again."

This week marks 10 years since Simeone took charge of his first Atletico match and no player has scored more goals under the Argentinian coach.

Indeed, Griezmann's 141 goals is the fourth-most in Atleti history and the forward credits Simeone with getting the most out of him.

Asked which of the coaches he has worked under has impressed him most, Griezmann said: "I would say it's Cholo. I think he's the coach who knows me best. 

"I have an incredible relationship with him, and also on a sporting level he has always fought with the best, in the Spanish league or in Europe. He has taken the club to the highest level possible."

Diego Simeone is keeping his fingers crossed that Antoine Griezmann's injury is not too serious after the striker hobbled off in Thursday's 5-0 Copa del Rey win over Rayo Majadahonda.

The France international – who scored his side's fourth after being introduced as a substitute – sustained a thigh injury in last month's derby defeat to Real Madrid before testing positive for COVID-19 last week.

Simeone did not reveal the nature of Griezmann's injury but said he hopes the France international, who left the pitch visibly upset, is not sidelined for long.

"The doctors will inform better than me," he told a media conference. "He is a very important player for us and it is a shame that he was injured again.

"We hope he does not have much time out."

Simeone fielded a strong starting XI for the game, which was played at the Wanda Metropolitano despite Majadahonda being drawn as the home team, and they never looked like they would suffer an upset after Matheus Cunha's early opener.

Renan Lodi and Luis Suarez made it three before the interval, while Griezmann and fellow substitute Joao Felix rounded off the scoring in the second half.

After scoring against Granada in LaLiga before the mid-season break, Joao Felix has now scored in consecutive away games in all competitions for just the second time ever after doing so against Real Mallorca and Lokomotiv Moscow in October 2019.

Simeone was full of praise for the Portugal international and wants to see more of the same from him in the coming weeks.

"It was an extraordinary performance in the second half," the Atleti boss added.

"He has come out with great enthusiasm and everything he has tried has turned out well for him. I'm very happy for him and I'm sure it will be good for us if he continues at this level."

After four defeats in a row before the mid-season break, Atleti have started 2022 with back-to-back wins.

Simeone has been pleased with his side's attitude since their return to action and he does not want them to let up.

"The side has a lot of desire to do things well," he said. "The players have great intensity from minute one to get out of the moment of difficulty that the team was going through.

"Achieving consistency in the league is the most difficult thing and it is what we are trying to do."

Atleti are next in action on Sunday when they visit Villarreal in LaLiga.

Atletico Madrid cruised into the last 16 of the Copa del Rey thanks to a 5-0 rout of Rayo Majadahonda on Thursday.

Diego Simeone fielded a strong starting XI for the game, which was played at the Wanda Metropolitano despite Majadahonda being drawn as the home team, and they never looked like they would suffer an upset after Matheus Cunha's early opener.

Renan Lodi and Luis Suarez then made it three before the interval as the Colchoneros threatened to run riot.

Substitute Griezmann – who later hobbled off with an injury – added a fourth after a fine move, before Joao Felix wrapped up the scoring with a sumptuous finish. 

Atleti's relentless early pressure told after 17 minutes when Matheus Cunha fired home after Yannick Carrasco had blocked an attempted clearance.

Lodi then opened his account for the season nine minutes later, superbly firing into Alvaro Fernandez's top-left corner from 15 yards after being picked out by Thomas Lemar.

Suarez, who had earlier been denied by Fernandez, added a third four minutes before the interval, the Uruguay international slotting home Marcos Llorente's low cross from 12 yards.

Simeone's men started the second half at a sluggish pace, but they added a fourth in the 67th minute when Griezmann slammed the ball into the roof of Fernandez's roof after combining superbly with fellow substitute Angel Correa. 

Joao Felix added further gloss to the scoreline with 11 minutes remaining, cutting in from the left and whipping the ball into the top corner. 


What does it mean? Griezmann injury mars routine win

Given the strength of Simeone's starting XI it was little surprise to see Atleti blow their less illustrious opponents away with consummate ease.

The only blot on their copybook was the injury to Griezmann, who was visibly upset as he walked down the tunnel.

Suarez endures

Suarez's typically composed finish was his first Copa del Rey goal for Atleti and his 20th overall. Since his arrival in Spain ahead of the 2014-15 season, only Lionel Messi (27) has scored more goals in the competition.

Giralt's game cut short

Majadahonda goalkeeper Gorka Giralt was cruelly denied the chance to test himself against some of Spanish football's biggest names after suffering a hand injury inside the first minute. The 26-year-old cut a despondent figure as he walked off the pitch to be replaced by Fernandez.

What's next?

Fourth-placed Atleti return to LaLiga action on Sunday when they visit Villarreal, who sit four places and four points beneath them.

Atletico Madrid confirmed Antoine Griezmann has been granted permission from health authorities to return to training.

Griezmann was among five to test positive for COVID-19 on December 30 along with coach Diego Simeone, Koke, Hector Herrera and Joao Felix.

All of them went into immediate isolation, with only Simeone being able to leave quarantine in time for Sunday's 2-0 LaLiga win over Rayo Vallecano.

But Griezmann has been cleared to return to the training pitch as well after his latest test came back negative, making his a case of "resolved infection".

An Atletico statement read: "Antoine Griezmann has received clearance from LaLiga to return to training.

"The French player represents a case of resolved infection that meets the conditions set by the Strategy for Early Detection, Surveillance and Control of COVID-19 of the Ministry of Health, dated December 19, 2021."

As such, Griezmann could potentially feature against Rayo Majadahonda in the Copa del Rey on Thursday.

Otherwise, he will hope to be involved away to Villarreal on Sunday.

Diego Simeone and Antoine Griezmann are among five new positive cases of coronavirus at Atletico Madrid.

Midfielders Koke and Hector Herrera and Portugal star Joao Felix also returned positive results in the club's latest round of testing.

The Spanish champions said all five are asymptomatic and isolating at home.

COVID-19 infections have been recorded at several LaLiga clubs in recent days, with Barcelona having had 10 positive tests this week alone.

On Wednesday, Real Madrid confirmed Thibaut Courtois, Eduardo Camavinga, Federico Valverde and Vinicius Junior had all tested positive for the virus, while Sevilla recorded five positives during the short mid-season break in Spain.

Valencia face Espanyol on Friday before most sides return to action on Sunday, with Atletico taking on high-flying neighbours Rayo Vallecano at the Wanda Metropolitano.

December 23 marks the 10th anniversary of Diego Simeone's appointment as the head coach of Atletico Madrid.

The Argentine's return to his old club altered the modern history of LaLiga, as Atleti firmly established a 'big three' in Spain alongside Real Madrid and Barcelona while making waves in Europe.

While their style of play has not always courted admirers, Simeone's Atletico have won eight trophies – including two LaLiga titles and two Europa Leagues – and twice reached the Champions League final, all on a budget that has never matched that of their two biggest rivals.

In his decade in the capital, Simeone has also worked through a sizeable turnover of players, some of whom have established themselves as modern greats at the club.

Here, Stats Perform attempts to select a best XI from Cholo's time in charge...

Jan Oblak

Replacing Thibaut Courtois was no easy task, but signing Jan Oblak for €16million has proven to be an outstanding piece of business.

An invaluable part of Atletico's imperious rearguard, Oblak set a record for the fewest matches needed to record 100 clean sheets in LaLiga last July (182), helping his side to the league title – one of four trophies in his time at the club.

Oblak has won the Zamora Trophy – given to the keeper with the best goals-against-per-game ratio – in four of the past five seasons.

Juanfran

He might have developed at Real Madrid, but Juanfran became one of Atleti's most dependable and beloved players under Simeone.

A winger as a younger player, Juanfran was a strong attacking outlet as well as being reliable in defence at a time when Atleti's biggest rivals boasted Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at their peak. It was cruel that he should miss a penalty in the Champions League final shoot-out defeat to Madrid in 2016.

Although he won seven trophies before leaving for Sao Paulo in 2019, Juanfran told supporters at his farewell reception: "You singing my name was better than winning titles."

Diego Godin

Signed the year before Simeone's arrival, Godin became the rock on which Atleti's redoubtable defence was built, playing 389 games before departing at the end of 2018-19 – a record for a foreign player at the club.

A winner of eight trophies under Simeone, the Uruguay centre-back was twice included on the Ballon d'Or shortlist as he formed a formidable partnership with Miranda and later compatriot Jose Gimenez. There are some who consider Godin, who became captain, to be the greatest defender ever to play for the club.

There are suggestions he could return to the Wanda Metropolitano should he leave Cagliari in the coming weeks.

Jose Gimenez

Gimenez had to wait for his chance, linking up with Atletico for the title-winning 2013-14 season as an 18-year-old and finding Miranda blocking his path. However, the veteran soon moved on to Inter and was scarcely missed.

Gimenez, who remains at Atleti and is still only 26, had the benefit of playing alongside Godin at international level, quickly forging a strong partnership after his 2013 Uruguay debut. At international level, he may well be the man to pass his colleague's record caps haul.

Simeone's latest stalwart has already continued his fine performances at club level beyond Godin's career, named as one of four captains immediately after the older man's departure. Only hamstring injuries have slowed Gimenez to this point, but he has plenty of time left to add to his legacy.

Filipe Luis

Atletico's outstanding 2013-14 season attracted the attention of some of Europe's biggest clubs – or at least one of them. Chelsea recalled Courtois and returned to sign two more title-winning stars: Filipe Luis and Diego Costa.

Both men eventually returned to Simeone's ranks, but Filipe Luis' Premier League move was particularly underwhelming. Jose Mourinho's Stamford Bridge rebuild found room for one of Europe's outstanding full-backs only as a back-up, with the Brazil international restricted to 939 league minutes – merely the 16th-most in that triumphant Chelsea side.

Atleti were only too happy to welcome Filipe Luis back the following year, installing him again as a regular in Simeone's sturdy defence.

Koke

Koke made his Atletico debut more than two years prior to Simeone's appointment and is still at the club as captain, aged only 29. He may even break Adelardo Rodriguez's club appearance record of 551 before the end of the season, now 30 short.

Under Simeone alone, Koke has turned out on 486 occasions, by far the most of any Atleti player, as he has had a big hand in the coach's various successes.

The midfielder emerged too late to contribute to Spain's international titles between 2008 and 2012 but was instead identified as Xavi's successor by the man himself. "An extraordinary footballer," according to a man who knows a thing or two about such players, Koke has consistently delivered at club level.

Gabi

A Marca column this year identified two potential successors to Simeone, two former players who are "pure Atletico Madrid". Fernando Torres is one; Gabi is the other.

Madrid-born Gabi epitomised Simeone's side with his dogged approach, having been selected as captain by the coach he played alongside in his first spell at the club.

"We weren't the best technically, but we were the best in terms of our belief," Gabi reflected of an Atleti stint that included six major honours – a description that fits both iconic player and team.

Marcos Llorente

Probably the most surprising choice in this XI, Llorente has undoubtedly proven himself an invaluable asset to Simeone since his move across the city in 2019.

Nominally a holding midfielder, the Spain international has been deployed to great effect in a more attacking role, not least in scoring twice at Anfield to knock Liverpool out of the 2019-20 Champions League.

Llorente has also filled in at full-back, that versatility earning him a starting spot on the right-hand side of Luis Enrique's line-up at Euro 2020. There are few players more accomplished at adopting different roles in Simeone's demanding set-up.

Antoine Griezmann

His 'Decision' about staying at Atletico in 2018 – and then promptly signing for Barcelona anyway a year later – upset plenty of Atletico fans, but there is little doubt about Griezmann's contribution to Simeone's success.

Griezmann has scored 140 goals and provided 148 assists for Atletico; since Simeone took charge, the next highest on the list for direct goal involvements is Koke on 137. And Griezmann was not even an Atletico player for the first two and a half years of the Cholo era.

The France international has twice come third in the Ballon d'Or standings while playing for Atleti, in 2016 and then 2018. Had it not been for a costly penalty miss in the Champions League final five years ago, he could well have got his hands on the prize.

Diego Costa

Fiery and formidable, Costa was the archetypal Simeone striker, and a player at the heart of one of the club's greatest modern seasons.

Initially a back-up to Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan, and having battled a knee injury in 2011, Costa became an established player in the side in 2012-13, scoring in the Copa del Rey final win over Real Madrid.

Then, in 2013-14, he scored 27 LaLiga goals as Atleti claimed an incredible title triumph, and a further eight in nine games to propel them to the Champions League final. Simeone's attempt to rush him back from a hamstring injury for that game backfired, though: he lasted eight minutes of the match, which Atleti lost 4-1 after extra time.

Radamel Falcao

Described by Marca in 2012 as "the best signing of the 21st century", Radamel Falcao enjoyed two explosive seasons in Madrid as he cemented his reputation as the world's most feared number nine.

A club-record €40m signing in August 2011, the Colombia striker scored 36 goals in his debut season, including 12 in Atleti's victorious Europa League run – a competition he won the season before with Porto.

He started 2012-13 with consecutive hat-tricks, including against Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup, ending the season with 34 goals in all competitions. He also set up Diego Costa to score as Atleti beat Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final.

Antoine Griezmann faces a spell on the sidelines after suffering a thigh injury in Atletico Madrid's derby defeat to Real Madrid on Sunday.

Griezmann had to be withdrawn at half-time in Atleti's 2-0 LaLiga loss at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The France international underwent an MRI scan and discovered he sustained a muscle injury to his right thigh.

Griezmann will seemingly miss the trip to Sevilla on Saturday and is also set to sit out the visit to Granada next Wednesday.

The 30-year-old has scored seven goals in 18 games since re-joining the Spanish champions from Barcelona on transfer deadline day.

Diego Simeone's side are fourth in the table following back-to-back LaLiga defeats, 13 points behind leaders Los Blancos.

Griezmann scored in a 3-1 win at Porto last week that sealed Atleti's place in the last 16 of the Champions League, setting up a tie against Manchester United.

Antoine Griezmann, Angel Correa and Rodrigo de Paul scored and three players were sent off as Atletico Madrid earned a place in the last 16 of the Champions League after a riotous 3-1 victory over Porto.

Following a goalless first half, Griezmann arrived at the far post after the break to divert in a corner and give Atletico the edge in a tight contest.

Yannick Carrasco lost his cool in the 67th minute, being sent off after grabbing Otavio's head, before Porto's Wendell was shown a straight red card just five minutes later for an elbow, making it a 10-a-side game. Unused Porto substitute Marchesin also saw red amid chaotic scenes.

Three goals were then scored from the 90th minute onwards, with Correa racing away to slot into the bottom corner and De Paul hammering in before Sergio Oliveira netted a consolation from the spot.

The first big chance of the game fell Atletico's way in the 22nd minute as Carrasco's low ball across the face of goal found Thomas Lemar, but Costa made the save at point-blank range and Griezmann could not connect with the loose ball with the goal gaping. The Porto goalkeeper then denied Marcos Llorente from a tight angle.

The visitors broke the deadlock in the 56th minute as Lemar's corner was flicked on by Geoffrey Kondogbia and turned in at the back post by Griezmann to give Diego Simeone's men a vital advantage.

Carrasco refused to give the ball back for a Porto throw-in before lashing out at Otavio as the Porto midfielder attempted to grab it from him, the Belgian earning himself a straight red card.

Ugly scenes ensued as both camps clashed, and Porto substitute Wendell suffered the same fate as Carrasco shortly after as he elbowed Angel Correa in the throat. Marchesin appeared to be red-carded for speaking out of turn from the sidelines.

Correa broke away in the 90th minute to double Atletico's advantage with a low finish into the bottom-left corner before De Paul smashed in the rebound after Griezmann's shot was saved two minutes later.

Porto pulled one back deep into stoppage time as Oliveira rifled a penalty past Jan Oblak, but Atletico had done enough to make it to the knockout stage. Porto must settle for the Europa League.

Diego Simeone believes Antoine Griezmann is starting to show the quality that Atletico Madrid re-signed him for.

Griezmann returned Atleti in a late loan deal from Barcelona at the end of August, just two years after the France forward swapped the Wanda Metropolitano for Camp Nou.

The World Cup winner scored 20 goals across all competitions for Barca last season, having initially struggled in his first campaign at the club.

Only Lionel Messi scored more for the Blaugrana in 2020-21, with Griezmann's tally just one short of Atleti's top scorer Luis Suarez (21).

Griezmann hardly hit the ground running on his return to Atleti, however. He had to wait until the end of September for his first goal, as he scored in a 2-1 win over Milan in the Champions League, with a double following against Liverpool in October before he was then sent off.

But he has now scored in two of his past three LaLiga appearances, with his shot conversion rate of 25 per cent close to Suarez's 25.81, the Uruguay forward having netted three goals more than his team-mate.

 

On Friday, Atleti received news Griezmann's two-game ban in the Champions League had been reduced to one match, meaning he will be able to feature against Milan next week.

First up for Atleti is Saturday's league meeting with Osasuna, however, and Simeone is thrilled with Griezmann's recent displays.

"Comparisons are always bad," Simeone told a news conference when asked how the Griezmann of 2021 matched up with the player who left Atleti in 2019.

"That one was younger, this one has more experience, more national team matches, with Barcelona, and little by little, he is finding the best version of himself.

"We need him the same as in the games against Real Betis and Valencia [before the international break]. That is the footballer we went to find, the one that the people want and the team needs."

Another player linked with a return to Atleti has been Diego Godin. The veteran centre-back is reportedly set to be out of contract with Serie A club Cagliari in January and Mundo Deportivo claims he wishes to move back to Atleti, where he became a club great between 2010 and 2019.

"I understand the question – you know what I love Godin for everything he has given us for all these years – but the only thing that interests me now is Osasuna," Simeone said when asked if Godin could be an option.

Hugo Duro scored twice in second-half stoppage time as Atletico Madrid threw away a two-goal lead in a remarkable 3-3 draw away to Valencia on Sunday.

Atletico looked to be well on track to bouncing back from a disappointing midweek defeat to Liverpool but Valencia showed commendable spirit to peg them back right at the end.

The visitors had dominated the first half and led through Luis Suarez's sublime goal, only for Valencia to improve after the break and level through Stefan Savic's own goal.

A quick-fire double from Atletico, courtesy of Antoine Griezmann and Sime Vrsaljko, looked as though it would be enough for the champions, only for Valencia substitute Duro to clinch a late brace that incredibly rescued a point.

Antoine Griezmann produced his best performance of the season to thrill Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone, yet the LaLiga champions must get by without his threat at Liverpool on Wednesday.

Back at Atletico for a second spell after a misfiring stint at Barcelona, there was a touch of vintage Griezmann about his display in Sunday's 3-0 home win over Real Betis.

Since making his LaLiga debut with Real Sociedad against Villarreal on August 29 in 2010, only four players have scored more LaLiga goals than Griezmann's haul of 157 in 403 games. Those players are a special group: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Luis Suarez.

Some 95 of those goals have come in 188 games for Atletico, at a rate of one every 156.29 minutes, and there are promising signs that Griezmann is rediscovering his old confidence with the Rojiblancos.

Simeone watched the Frenchman create four chances against Betis, the joint most on the team, alongside Angel Correa and Yannick Carrasco. That total did not only beat his previous highest number in a game this season, but it doubled his entire season's LaLiga tally.

Two of the chances he created were defined by Opta as big chances, meaning that the person on the end of the chance would have reasonably been expected to score. That was not how it turned out, with neither resulting in a goal, but Simeone was suitably impressed. Luis Suarez and Jose Gimenez were among those who could not put away chances made for them by Griezmann.

"Looking at today's game, we found the usual Griezmann," Simeone said. "Working, insisting, looking for scoring chances, getting into positions, having chances to score. That's the way we were looking for him to be when we thought of him."

Three of Griezmann's four goals since rejoining Atletico in August have come in the Champions League, with his double against Liverpool last time out in the competition not enough for Simeone's side as they slipped to a 3-2 home defeat. Griezmann's red card in the second half of that game means he will not be involved at Anfield.

Griezmann had 65 touches against Betis, the most he has had for Atletico in a game during this second spell, with this being his 11th appearance for the club since leaving Camp Nou.

These are all promising signs for a player who appeared to have lost his way at Barcelona, and Liverpool will surely be relieved they will not encounter his threat in Wednesday's game.

Atletico sit a precarious second in Group B, five points adrift of Liverpool and level on points with Porto, who travel to face Milan.

Simeone, who watched from the stands against Betis after his dismissal in Atletico's previous game against Levante, can now begin to think about another clash with Jurgen Klopp's team.

"We were busy in LaLiga," the head coach said on Sunday evening. "We needed to win again to be up there with the contenders, and starting tomorrow another competition begins for which we will start to prepare tonight or tomorrow morning."

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