Didier Deschamps is not worried about Antoine Griezmann's lack of form ahead of France's Nations League Finals campaign this week.

The 30-year-old returned to Atletico Madrid from Barcelona in a high-profile transfer at the end of August following two largely underwhelming campaigns at Camp Nou.

Griezmann was expected to revive his career in the Spanish capital, but he has managed just one goal and no assists in seven appearances in his second spell with Atletico.

That solitary strike came in last week's 2-1 win over Milan in the Champions League, though he was again left out of Atletico's starting lineup for Saturday's showdown with Barcelona.

He has been named in Deschamps' 23-man squad for this week's Nations League Finals, which will see France face Belgium in the semi-finals on Thursday.

Les Blues will then either take on Italy or Spain in Sunday's final or third-placed play-off, depending on the outcome of both semi-finals.

And Deschamps has no concerns about using Griezmann, who has 41 goals in 98 caps for France, in those matches.

"His goal in the Champions League was very positive," Deschamps said at a news conference on Monday. "Even though he didn't start, that goal will give him confidence.

"He has returned to a club he knows well, but with different players around him. He can't just click his fingers.

"But because of his qualities and state of mind, I do not worry about him. I know he will be happy to join up with the France team."

Griezmann played a full part for France in their World Cup semi-final clash with Belgium en route to lifting the trophy in 2018, setting up Samuel Umtiti's winning goal.

The Nations League presents France with a chance to add to that triumph, having exited Euro 2020 at the last-16 stage, but they must overcome two sides ranked in the world's top eight.

"There is a title at stake; we have a semi-final to play against one of the best teams in the world," he said. 

"With Italy and Spain on the other side, there are four of us fighting for this title. We did everything to qualify for this final phase in a very tough group. 

"We want to get this title. Before there were two titles: the Euros and the World Cup. Now there is the Nations League. Winning it is our goal."

Belgium have named a vastly experienced squad for the Finals, with Jan Vertonghen, Axel Witsel, Toby Alderweireld and Eden Hazard all boasting over 100 caps.

Roberto Martinez's men only reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2020, where they were beaten by tournament winners Italy – their only defeat in 17 matches and one of only two defeats in 31 games since November 2018.

Ranked number one in the world, Deschamps acknowledged France face a big task against Belgium on Thursday.

"They have evolved well, with six or seven players on 100 or more caps," he said. "They are the best team in the FIFA rankings and have a very experienced core.

"It is a beautiful generation of players, but one that has not yet had the happiness of success at the Euros or World Cup."

Deschamps added: "It's going to be a fight at a physical, tactical and technical level. There is a lot of respect between myself and Roberto Martinez and also between the players.

"But there is of course a rivalry there because we are border countries, which we also have with Italy and Spain.

"There was also the 2018 semi-final we played, but this match cannot change what happened then. That will not have too much importance this week."

N'Golo Kante will miss the entirety of the Nations League Finals as Didier Deschamps is unwilling to take a risk with France's superstar midfielder, who has contracted coronavirus having just returned to fitness.

Kante was named in the French squad for the previous international break but missed out through injury, included only as an unused substitute against Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The Chelsea man has not played for his country since Euro 2020 and will not now be involved against Belgium in the Nations League semi-final, nor in either the final or third-place play-off after that.

Kante was missing from Chelsea's 1-0 defeat at Juventus on Wednesday due to testing positive for COVID-19.

France coach Deschamps acknowledges Kante would have been cleared in time for the second Nations League Finals match on October 10, but he doubts the midfielder would be in any condition to play to the best of his ability.

"It is 10 days since Monday, so you calculate," Deschamps said. "There was always the assumption that he would be there for the second game, but after 10 days without training, knowing that he was injured recently...

"I would prefer him to be there, but I also prefer him 100 per cent. Let him take advantage of this period to regain his physical freshness."

There is also no Kingsley Coman, who has been restricted to just eight minutes since the previous international break, or Thomas Lemar, as he battles a hamstring issue.

Steve Mandanda has been dropped after losing out to Pau Lopez in the Marseille goal, while Olivier Giroud's recent return for Milan is not enough for a recall – a "sporting choice", Deschamps explained, after other forwards impressed last time.

But the defence now looks a lot healthier, as Bayern Munich men Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez are able to rejoin the squad, as does team-mate Dayot Upamecano, who had to pull out last time. Deschamps listed Hernandez's brother Theo as a midfielder.

Crucially, the calf injury that kept Kylian Mbappe out of France's most recent games has subsided, meaning Deschamps must again attempt to strike a balance in attack, where Antoine Griezmann and Karim Benzema excelled in the Paris Saint-Germain forward's absence.

Griezmann, who has Deschamps' backing after a tricky start to his second stint at Atletico Madrid, scored twice against Finland – the first assisted by Benzema – as Les Bleus bounced back from draws with Ukraine and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"What happened is in the past," Deschamps added. "There is a title to play for. We have a semi-final to play against one of the best teams in Europe and the world, if not the best.

"We have given everything to qualify for the Finals. Now, we are there. We keep the same state of mind; we want to go for the title."

France squad:

Benoit Costil (Bordeaux), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Mike Maignan (Milan); Leo Dubois (Lyon), Lucas Digne (Everton), Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Jules Kounde (Sevilla), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich), Raphael Varane (Manchester United); Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille), Theo Hernandez (Milan), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Aurelien Tchouameni (Monaco), Jordan Veretout (Roma); Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Moussa Diaby (Bayer Leverkusen), Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain).

Atletico Madrid star Antoine Greizmann is hopeful his goal against Milan will kick-start his second coming in the Spanish capital after making Champions League history on Tuesday.

Griezmann scored his first goal for Atletico since returning from Barcelona on deadline day as the LaLiga champions claimed a last-gasp 2-1 win over 10-man Milan.

Atletico trailed 1-0 at half-time following Rafael Leao's opener but the visitors eventually capitalised on their numerical advantage after Milan's Franck Kessie received a second yellow card on the half-hour mark at San Siro.

Griezmann fuelled Atletico's comeback on matchday two, coming off the bench and equalising in the 84th minute before Luis Suarez converted a penalty in the seventh minute of stoppage time.

Already Atletico's all-time leading goalscorer in the Champions League (22), Griezmann became the club's top scorer in away games after netting his sixth in the competition.

"I hope to get to my best level as quickly as possible. [There've been] a lot of changes," Griezmann told Movistar post-game.

"It [the transfer] was done on the last day and it's different tactics, a different dressing room, another way of playing. In the end it's a lot of changes.

"Everything is different. I have to get used to it as quickly as possible because the coach and my team-mates need me. Nights like this are going to help me to get better.

 "[Head coach Diego Simeone] improved me, he got me to my best level. I want to pay him back and the club, the fans, my team-mates. I'm very proud to be here. I think the fans, the people, want to see me like this like tonight.

"I want to bring them happiness and they'll be going to bed happy tonight. My only objective coming back here is to make them happy."

This was Atletico's first away win against Italian opponents since they beat Milan in the Champions League in February 2014 (1-0), having been winless in four such games entering Tuesday's contest (D2 L2).

Excluding extra time, Suarez's penalty at 96:21 was the latest game-winning goal in the Champions League since the start of the 2003-04 season (as far back as Opta have exact goal times).

A penalty deep into second-half stoppage time from Luis Suarez gave Atletico Madrid a dramatic 2-1 Champions League win over Milan at San Siro.

Antoine Griezmann scored his first goal since his return to the club to level the scores in the 84th minute after Rafael Leao had deservedly put the hosts in front.

Franck Kessie received a second yellow card after only 30 minutes, but Stefano Pioli's men remained impressively resolute until Griezmann's impact off the bench.

Suarez then converted from the spot in style in the seventh minute of added time after Pierre Kalulu was penalised for handball, the decision upheld after a VAR check.

 

 

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone absolved his misfiring attackers of any blame following Saturday's shock LaLiga defeat to Deportivo Alaves. 

Victor Laguardia scored the only goal four minutes in at Estadio de Mendizorroza to inflict a first defeat of the season on Atleti in all competitions. 

Atleti had just one shot on target – substitute Angel Correa forcing Fernando Pacheco into a fine save – as Simeone's side missed out on the chance to overtake leaders Real Madrid. 

The Spanish champions have now failed to find the net in three of their last four matches, during which time they have won only once in all competitions. 

Despite playing a full part against Alaves, who were previously without a point this term, Luis Suarez and recent signing Antoine Griezmann failed to complete a single pass between each other. 

Griezmann has yet to so much as register a shot on target in his last seven LaLiga outings for Atleti and Barcelona combined, his longest such run in the competition. 

Rather than criticise the likes of Suarez, Griezmann and Correa, Atleti boss Simeone instead insisted it was down to him to find a way to break down a solid Alaves team. 

"The responsibility is mine for not having found options to overcome their defence," he said at his post-match news conference. 

"When opposition teams defend well, it is difficult to find those solutions. 

"It's also difficult when a team like Alaves close you down. We didn't have the speed or ability to hurt them. They deserved the win because they scored and knew how to defend." 

 

Laguardia's early goal came from a set-piece situation, the centre-back getting away from Stefan Savic and heading in Ruben Duarte's corner. 

Half of the previous 10 goals conceded by Atletico in the league have now come via headers, excluding own goals, and Simeone accepted his side must improve in that area. 

"I don't think the defence is to blame for the defeat because the goal came from a set-piece," he said.  

"But if there's a weakness at the back, or when defending set-pieces, then it is clear we will have to study that, work on it and try to correct it. 

"We have to keep improving. We had several phases of patient play today and I believe in these players." 

Atleti's fixtures do not get any easier as they travel to Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday, then host Barcelona in the league four days later. 

Reflecting on a bad run of form heading into that huge double-header, Simeone added: "We always say there are bad moments during a season and this may be one of them. 

"We have a good squad, a balanced squad, and we will analyse what is going wrong and try to find solutions." 

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone says the side are different to the one when Antoine Griezmann previously left and has called for patience with the French forward.

Griezmann was replaced in the 67th minute with Atletico trailing 1-0 against Getafe on Tuesday, before Luis Suarez netted twice to complete a fine comeback.

The France international was making his fourth appearance for Atletico since returning from Barcelona on deadline day, having left for the Blaugrana in 2019. Griezmann is yet to score for Atleti in his second stint at the club.

"It is normal. He was very enthusiastic to return," Simeone told reporters after the game.

"He is in the process of adapting to this Atletico, which is not the same as the one he left but I have no doubts that it will be what we expect. We are fortunate to have him.

"Atletico generated other things last season… now we understand that with the players we have these systems can also enter.

"The team has more associative play. We are on a path for everyone to adapt, not only Griezmann, but also Rodrigo [De Paul]. Today he did very well. He came on to give us more stability."

Atletico's comeback was aided by Carles Alena's 74th-minute sending off, dismissed for a second yellow card upon consultation with the VAR.

Suarez equalised in the 78th minute from Hermoso's ball into the box, before the Uruguayan headed a 90th-minute winner from Sime Vrsaljko's hopeful cross.

The brace ended Suarez's slow start to the campaign, having only netted once in Atletico's five games prior to the Getafe clash.

"Anyone would have removed Suarez and Suarez scored goals," Simeone said.

“We chatted at half-time and then, even aside from the goals, we saw another team that played with more offensive forcefulness. We have to continue managing that and wait for our most important players to hit their best form."

The result lifts Atletico above Real Madrid into top spot with 14 points from six games, although Los Blancos have a game in hand against Real Mallorca on Wednesday. Simeone conceded his side are yet to find their best form.

"We're at the start of the season," Simeone said. "There are many situations that the team needs to overcome, the team hasn't been as we would like them to be. The game was against a difficult opponent, who aren't going to lose all season and are dangerous."

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone has backed star forward pair Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann after their slow starts to the new LaLiga season.

The Spanish champions drew 0-0 with Athletic Bilbao in LaLiga on Saturday, days after another scoreless draw against FC Porto in the Champions League.

Suarez has netted only once in six appearances this term for Atleti, while Griezmann is yet to score in three games since his deadline day move from Barcelona.

"I have full confidence in all my players. I am aware that Luis was the last one to join the team alongside [Angel] Correa, [Kieran] Trippier and [Ramon] Lodi," Simeone said.

"They are the last ones who joined us in the pre-season. Then, in the international break, when he was getting fully fit, he had to stop following some physical issues.

"Now it is normal that it is taking some time for him to get fit but he eventually will, as he is a very important player for us."

On Griezmann, Simeone added: "I have full confidence in Antoine. He is a very important player for our team and all I had to tell him about is what I saw from his performances and which aspects I want him to improve on, and I have already told him this."

Atletico's chances of beating Bilbao on Saturday were not helped by Joao Felix's sending off, with the Portuguese forward dismissed after a second bookable offence for dissent.

In the wake of the game, Simeone downplayed Joao Felix's actions but he added on Monday that the side need to do better, having received 10 yellow cards in five games for complaining to referees.

"No, we must improve on that aspect, you just mentioned," he said. "I have no doubts we will do that.

"We really respect the Referee's Committee and yes, sometimes you can talk with them [in the games], but we are aiming to reduce those numbers because they are not good from us."

Atletico will take on Getafe away from home in LaLiga on Tuesday.

Diego Simeone hopes Antoine Griezmann will soon respond to his critics after Atletico Madrid were held to a goalless draw with Porto in the Champions League.

Atletico failed to win their opening game for the third consecutive season and are now winless in four home matches in Europe's premier club competition, their joint-longest streak without a victory.

Griezmann was introduced as a second-half substitute amid boos in search of a winner but failed to provide attacking impetus as he did not manage to record a single touch in Porto's box.

Following an underwhelming second debut against Espanyol following his return from Barcelona on loan, the pressure is now on the France forward, who already had to win supporters over on his comeback after his move to Camp Nou.

But Simeone is backing Griezmann, whose 21 goals for Atletico in the Champions League are nine more than any of their previous players in history, to prove his doubters wrong.

"Let's hope that he [Griezmann] gets better, that he can respond to all the people who criticise him at this time," Atletico head coach Simeone said to Movistar.

"He has a challenge ahead of him as a result of what happened in the past.

"They [the media] are making a movie and a morbid situation that clearly generates for us only the importance of having recovered a magnificent footballer whom we hope to recover."

Wednesday's result means LaLiga champions Atletico have now just won two of their last 10 European fixtures, but Simeone insisted he will drive his side towards improvements.

"The team has improvement ahead, we have work," he continued.

"We will aim for that, to find what makes the team better so that it maintains continuity in the game for as many minutes as possible.

"The system is a way of looking for variants so that the team can find solutions to the match. We have players who can play in different positions.

"We always did, last year we played various formations. We play with all systems."

Diego Simeone insists the referee was correct to add on 10 additional minutes in Atletico Madrid's dramatic late win at Espanyol due to the home side's time-wasting.

Atleti were heading for a first defeat of the season after Raul de Tomas gave Espanyol the lead through their first LaLiga goal in nine matches.

But Simeone's decision to make a triple substitution at half-time, before also turning to Joao Felix and Matheus Cunha in the second half, paid off for the reigning champions.

Yannick Carrasco fired in an equaliser in the 79th minute – Atleti's 300th LaLiga goal against Espanyol – and then set up Lemar's winner in the ninth of 10 added-on minutes.

Six substitutions were made in the second half and there was a lengthy VAR check for an earlier disallowed goal for Lemar after Luis Suarez was adjudged to have been offside in the build-up.

Espanyol scorer De Tomas complained about the amount of additional time played, but Simeone believes the hosts were made to pay for deliberately slowing down the game.

"It was a lot of minutes at the end, but I've never seen so much time wasted in a match either," Simeone said at his post-match news conference.

"You should look at what happened during the match."

 

Lemar dropped out of the starting line-up in place of Antoine Griezmann, who was making his second debut for Atleti, but made an impression during his time on the pitch.

Simeone explained after the game that the decision to overlook Lemar for a starting spot was down to fitness reasons following his return from international duty with France.

"Thomas is in a very good moment," Simeone said. "With the national team he had a digestive problem, he lost 3-4 kilos. 

"That is why I had doubts and thought about reserving him instead for Wednesday. I hope he can repeat those scenarios. 

"He was the player we signed from Monaco, the player that the team needs. Verticality he is good, he has a right foot, a left foot, he works had

"He grew a lot last season but lacked goals. Hopefully this season the goals will follow like today."

Atletico's late double came after Griezmann had been substituted off with an hour played following an underwhelming first game back since rejoining from Barcelona.

Griezmann had just four touches in the opposition box and managed only two shots, neither of which were on target, though nobody could match his three big chances created.

Asked what he made of Griezmann's performance, Simeone said: "I saw quite a lot in the first half that was not good from us. Espanyol were better in the first half.

"In the second we changed and looked for other alternatives to what we saw in the first half. The team had an extraordinary second half."

While Atletico have now picked up three wins and a draw from their opening four games, Espanyol remain winless on their return to the top flight.

Despite the controversy surrounding the added time at the end of the game at RCDE Stadium, home boss Vicente Moreno did not feel the need to criticise referee Juan Martinez Munuera.

"I don't think about it. It may seem like more minutes or fewer than expected, but it's down to the referee. Little can change what he saw," Moreno said.

"You rarely see 10 minutes added on in a game, but I am totally respectful. I just hope it's the same when we need a goal.

"As for the other comments made [by Simeone], I am respectful of what everyone says."

Atletico, who had failed to win on their previous three league visits to Espanyol, return to action on Wednesday with a home match against Porto in the Champions League.

Antoine Griezmann was eager to return to Atletico Madrid, according to Diego Simeone, who acknowledged there will be plenty of expectation on the forward.

Griezmann left Atleti for Barcelona in 2019 but, on deadline day, the 30-year-old returned to the Spanish champions on a season-long loan with an option to extend the deal.

With Barca hit by huge financial losses, the Catalan club needed to get Griezmann's wages off their books, even with Lionel Messi having left for Paris Saint-Germain.

Griezmann's departure from Atleti two years ago was by no means a smooth one, with supporters seemingly aggravated by the prolonged nature of the move. In 2018, the former Real Socieded attacker committed his future to the club, only to leave a season later.

However, Simeone insists Griezmann, who scored 94 LaLiga goals for Atleti in his first spell, was determined to return from Barca.

"I found a Griezmann who was eager to return," Simeone said ahead of Sunday's meeting with Espanyol, with Griezmann having been included in Atleti's squad for an immediate return to the city of Barcelona.

"[He was] enthusiastic about the option of returning to the team, and people will demand from Griezmann what they demand from us every day.

"The fans are very demanding and it is normal for them to demand from Griezmann what they demand from us every day."

 

Griezmann has joined a sparkling attack at Atleti, with Luis Suarez, Joao Felix and Angel Correa likely to be competing with the World Cup winner for a place up front. 

"Actually, when you talk about a better or worse squad, short or deep, everything is seen as a consequence of what is going to happen during the season," said Simeone when asked if his team were favourites for the title.

"It is easy to think of the best before the game starts and for there to be some imagination about the names, but the names do not make a team. The men do that.

"So, we will go without changing anything, with the commitment that I have with the club, and tomorrow we will play against a very complex, aggressive opponent who will be tough, like everyone else in the Spanish league.

"We hope to improve compared to what happened last season. We did not have a good Copa del Rey [run], in the Champions League we would have liked to compete better [and] we [also] have the Supercopa de Espana.

"Four competitions where hopefully we can improve the numbers from last season, as we are always looking to do."

Antoine Griezmann will return for Atletico Madrid against Espanyol but head coach Diego Simeone insisted his focus is on the team dynamic and ensuring his talented attacking options click, rather than individuals.

The France forward made a remarkable move back from Barcelona, initially joining the reigning LaLiga champions on loan with either club holding the option to extend for a further year.

Griezmann scored 133 goals across 257 games in his first spell before that ultimately ill-fated €120million move to the Catalan giants in 2019, and Simeone revealed his new loanee is relishing a homecoming.

"I found [Antoine] Griezmann eager to return to Atletico Madrid, very enthusiastic about the situation of returning to the team," Simeone told reporters on Saturday.

However, the 51-year-old head coach wanted to avoid focusing on individuals as Atletico look to end a three-game winless away run at Espanyol in LaLiga.

 

Luis Suarez, who has been involved in 15 goals in 11 top-flight appearances against Sunday's opponents, could link up with his former Barca colleague Griezmann again, though the France star will face a fight for a place in the side given Atletico now boast a wealth of attacking talent among their ranks.

Angel Correa has thrived as a support striker, scoring three times in the first two LaLiga games, as Atletico opened with back-to-back wins for the fourth time in the Simeone era.

Versatile attacker Matheus Cunha then arrived from Hertha Berlin for a reported €26m fee late in the transfer window.

The Brazil forward created 54 chances – ranking him sixth among forwards in Germany – last season, while only five forwards across the top five European leagues completed more dribbles than Cunha's 123 since his arrival in Berlin back in January 2020.

Yannick Carrasco was the only Atletico player to complete 100 dribbles in that time and the Belgian winger – often used as a wing-back last term – led club charts for chances created (47) in LaLiga in 2020-21.

Add the likes of Joao Felix, Thomas Lemar, Marcos Llorente and Rodrigo De Paul to the equation and Simeone has a wealth of creative talents to call on. Now he can look to Griezmann as well.

Although his Barcelona spell may not have lived up to expectations, he still netted 20 times across 51 appearances in all competitions last season, providing 12 assists and creating 67 chances for Ronald Koeman's side. That was two more than he managed in 2017-18, arguably the finest individual campaign of Griezmann's career.

But Simeone is not kidding himself. While he has great talent at his disposal, he needs them to click.

"Internal competition has grown and that leads us to compete better," Simeone continued.

"At first it is easy to speak from the names. I believe in men and in how a team is executed. We are absolutely always looking for a team.

"Names don't team up, men do. We will go in that search of that commitment we have towards the club, always looking for the best."

Antoine Griezmann said he "definitely wanted to return" to Atletico Madrid after re-joining the LaLiga champions from Barcelona.

Griezmann is back in the Spanish capital with Atletico following his remarkable switch, initially on loan for the 2021-22 season with the option for either club to extend for a further year.

The France international scored 133 goals in 257 appearances during his first spell with Atletico between 2014 and 2019, before departing for Barca in a €120million deal.

Griezmann was part of Diego Simeone's side that won the 2018 Europa League, two years after helping them reach the Champions League final.

"Every game I will give everything for the great effort they have made for me so that I could return," Griezmann said.

"My part was easy, knowing that Atleti wanted me back, I definitely wanted to return. It is the best place for me to be happy on and off the field.

"It was a crazy day when the market closed, but everything went well and with a lot of desire. Although I was with the national team I wanted to be a 'colchonero' again.

"It is the most beautiful thing that has happened to me in the last few years."

 

Though he played more games (54) and scored more goals (32) during the 2015-16 season, Griezmann's finest campaign at Atleti arguably came in 2017-18.

His tally of 19 LaLiga strikes was 11 more than any other Atleti player as he finished sixth in the scoring charts overall.

Griezmann added another 10 goals across the cup competitions, however, including a brace in the Europa League final to help Atleti beat Marseille 3-0 in Lyon.

Only Griezmann got into double figures for Atleti in terms of assists (13), while only Koke (81) created more chances than his total of 65.

Griezmann was clinical when opportunities came his way too, converting 52.38 per cent of the 42 "big chances" (an opportunity defined as one where they player should score) that were crafted for him, while he ranked top for attempts (124) as he averaged a goal every 133 minutes.

After a difficult first season at Barca, Griezmann came into his second term with a renewed sense of purpose and finally seemed to click under new boss Ronald Koeman. Playing 51 times in all competitions, including making 45 starts, he clocked up 3,904 minutes in total – the second most he has managed in a campaign since moving to Atletico.

A total of 20 goals saw him fall some way short of the 29 he managed in 2017-18, though his 12 assists came close to matching his Atleti peak.

Griezmann created more chances (67) last term than in his 2017-18 season, though his conversion rate of gilt-edged opportunities dropped to 39.39 per cent.

Only in 2018-19 (15.11) did Griezmann have a lower shot conversion rate than last term (18.02) while there was no international glory for him this time around either – he scored once as France dropped out of Euro 2020 in the last 16.

Griezmann added: "It is also thanks to [Diego Simeone]. I owe him so much in my professional life, because here with him, with Atleti, where I lived my best moments on a professional level and in my private life, because he has been a huge support for me and my family. I'm very happy. It is an honour to play for him."

Barcelona are a structurally better side without superstar forward Lionel Messi, according to head coach Ronald Koeman.

The LaLiga giants were left stunned last month when Messi departed for Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer after they were unable to fulfil a new contract that had been agreed.

Messi's exit has left a big void at Camp Nou, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner having scored 672 goals and assisted 265 across his 778 appearances for Barcelona.

Barca have started the post-Messi era with two wins and a draw in their opening three league matches, scoring seven goals in the process, and Koeman believes his side are adjusting to life without their greatest ever player.

"It was a huge blow to lose him," Koeman told Sport. "We had planned for the season with him. 

"We lose so much and it took a few days to get things in order, but we must turn the page and build the team.

"Losing Messi doesn't oblige us to play different tactically but there are things without the ball where the team can improve. 

"We won't have the individual quality of Leo, but in pressing and structuring the team, the team is better now."

 

Antoine Griezmann is another high-profile forward to have left Catalonia last month, the France international returning to Atletico Madrid on an initial loan just two years after swapping clubs.

Koeman understands the club's decision to let Griezmann depart in the final stages of the window, with Luuk de Jong arriving from Sevilla as a replacement.

"The aggravation we had on the last day, with practically no time to find a solution, it was a b****," Koeman said.

"Griezmann had a great contract and if he left it was going to help improve the financial situation of the club. That's why I agreed to his departure."

 

Koeman has repeatedly called on his other attacking players to step up and new recruit Memphis Depay has done exactly that with two goals and an assist in his first three competitive games for Barca.

Depay also scored his first international hat-trick for the Netherlands in Tuesday's 6-1 win over Turkey to move level with Johan Cruyff and Abe Lenstra in Oranje's list of all-time top scorers.

President Joan Laporta revealed this week Depay's number nine shirt is now the biggest seller at Barca and Koeman has backed his compatriot to be the face of the club for years to come.

"Memphis can mark an era at Barca," Koeman said. "He has something that is essential to be a success here: personality and character. 

"There's something different about him and he's really motivated by the challenge of being here."

He added: "There are always things to improve but I'll tell you one thing: if we have everyone available, we can do big things.

"We have a great team. We still have to be realistic, it will be difficult, but I am optimistic and ambitious."

Antoine Griezmann declared "I'm back" to Atletico Madrid's supporters after returning to training for the first time since re-joining from Barcelona.

The France forward made the switch to LaLiga's champions on loan for the 2021-22 season, with the option for either club to extend for a further year.

Less than 24 hours after scoring twice in Les Bleus’ 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Finland on Tuesday, Griezmann was back in training with Los Rojiblancos.

The 30-year-old delivered a personalised message via the club’s official Twitter account, saying: "Hello Atleti fans, I'm back."

Griezmann scored 133 goals in 257 appearances during his first spell with Atletico between 2014 and 2019, before departing for Barcelona in a €120million deal.

He was part of Diego Simeone's side that won the 2018 Europa League, two years after helping them reach the Champions League final.

Didier Deschamps praised France's determination after defeating Finland 2-0 in Tuesday's World Cup qualifier.

Les Bleus ended a five-game winless run with victory in Lyon as they continued their unbeaten streak and created a seven-point gap over second-place Ukraine in Group D.

Despite an underwhelming return after a poor Euro 2020 showing, it is the first time since 2006 that France have not lost any of their first six matches in qualifying for a major tournament (W3 D3).

Indeed, consecutive draws against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Ukraine had placed pressure on Deschamps, which is why he hailed Tuesday's win as crucial.

"It's easy to talk, I'm doing what I think is good for them and the interests of the France team," Deschamps told TF1 post-match.

"Even if we didn't do everything well, today there was more determination and from there, the technical quality is there.

"It was a very important result, but the job will have to be finished in November.

"We have never stayed for such a long period [without a win], it can happen.

"We must therefore appreciate this victory and especially during the last two qualifying matches in November, finish the job."

Antoine Griezmann's brace proved the difference, his first making him the fourth France player to score 40 goals, while his second saw him join Michel Platini in third on the list of all-time goalscorers.

The 30-year-old thrived after a change in system by Deschamps to a three-man defence and the Atletico Madrid loanee also recognised the importance of the result.

"We wanted this victory, to show that we are solid and that we had not lost anything," Griezmann said to TF1.

"Now we must keep this state of mind, this desire to give everything on the field, to win the duels and having to hurt like we did.

"Maybe we found a system that suits us best. We'll see. It's the coach who'll decide. But tonight, we were strong.

"Five draws was a long time. We wanted to win and we did it in the right way."

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