Atletico Madrid's "world class" strike force of Antoine Griezmann, Luis Suarez, Angel Correa and Joao Felix will help the club to finish above Real Madrid, Barcelona and any other challengers in the LaLiga title race.

That is the view of ex-Valencia, Celta Vigo, Villarreal and Real Zaragoza defender Jose Enrique, who told Stats Perform he also expects Atleti to put up a fight for the Champions League under "annoying" boss Diego Simeone.

The reigning Spanish champions are level on points with city rivals Madrid at LaLiga's summit after eight matches thanks to a 2-0 win over Barcelona – who are five points worse off in ninth with a game in hand – prior to the international break.

Atleti have been far from perfect at the start of their title defence, though, having dropped points against Villarreal, Athletic Bilbao and Deportivo Alaves this term, losing 1-0 to the latter in the shock of the season so far.

Simeone's side have also had to ride their luck at times, with three of their 11 league goals coming in added time and another two arriving in the 78th and 79th minute.

Suarez leads the way with four goals, including a strike against former side Barca two weeks ago, while Correa has three to his name.

With that goal against Barca, the Uruguay international completed the set by scoring against all 31 teams that he has faced in the Spanish top flight.

 

Joao Felix has yet to get off the mark for the LaLiga campaign, though, and Griezmann is also goalless in the league since rejoining from Barcelona at the end of the most recent transfer window.

Yet while Madrid have double the number of goals as Atleti, Jose Enrique rates Los Rojiblancos' attack as the best around and cannot see past them finishing top for a third time in nine seasons this time around.

"I think it will be Atletico," the Spaniard, who also spent eight years in the Premier League with Newcastle United and Liverpool, said when asked who he expects to win the title.

"I know there been some games where they had to struggle in terms of scoring, with 90-something minute winners or whatever. 

"But what they have in the players they have is just incredible. You see the strength of the squad they have. They just signed Griezmann and they have Suarez, Joao Felix, Correa. 

"You talk about those four and for me that could be in any team in the world, and the four of them are strikers.

"Correa can play out on the wing sometimes, Joao Felix as well. But you're talking about four world-class strikers in my opinion. So, for me they are amazing. 

"It is true that that defensively, maybe there's a little bit more. But this is a team that I really believe is going to win the league this year.

"In the Champions League they're going to be annoying again, because Simeone is very, very annoying, always."

Diego Simeone asked Luis Suarez to contact Lionel Messi regarding the possibility of the six-time Ballon d'Or winner joining Atletico Madrid prior to signing for Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi ended a 21-year spell with Barcelona in August as he signed for PSG on a free transfer after the Blaugrana were unable to re-sign the club great due to salary cap restrictions.

Suarez, who Barca surprisingly allowed to join Atletico last year after being deemed surplus to requirements by Ronald Koeman, formed a deep relationship on and off the pitch with Messi during their six years together at Camp Nou.

The pair formed a scintillating attacking trio with Neymar, and Suarez assisted the Argentina captain 47 times – five more than any other player to feature with Messi at Barca.

And Simeone revealed he attempted to partner Suarez and Messi again when the Barca legend became available following confirmation of his departure.

"I'll tell you a detail… With what happened in Barcelona, we called Luis [Suarez]," Simeone told Argentine outlet Ole when asked about any potential move for his compatriot.

"With all due respect, I didn't call Leo [Messi], but I did call Luis to ask how Messi was doing, if he was eager or if there was a slight possibility that he would come to Atletico." 

However, the mission to secure the 34-year-old came to an abrupt end, as Simeone explained: "[It was] something that lasted three hours, because PSG was already obsessed with that [signing]."

It would have been a peculiar feeling for Simeone and the club's fans to see Messi lining up for Atletico, given Los Colchoneros were among Messi's favourite opponents during his time in Spain – his 32 goals against them second only to the 38 plundered in clashes with Sevilla.

Therefore, Simeone knows first-hand the quality Messi possesses. But, true to form, the Atletico head coach insisted the focus would have remained on the team effort even if he had pulled off such a coup.

"He was always at Barcelona, I was always at Atletico [during Messi's career] and we didn't coincide as players in the national team," he continued. "But to me, if you ask me where Messi has to play, I tell you in a team that wants to win, in a team that knows what it has to do to win.

"It doesn't matter where he plays, it matters that the team is prepared to win. Don't think about him, think about the team."

Diego Simeone did not feel Atletico Madrid were any better against Barcelona on Saturday than in previous meetings, with Lionel Messi's absence instead the decisive factor.

Atletico have had a poor record against Barca in Simeone's time at the club, going 20 without a win in this fixture before their 1-0 success in 2020-21.

But they have now gone three without conceding to the Blaugrana in LaLiga for the first time, having drawn 0-0 at the end of last season and won 2-0 on Saturday.

Barca had 70.4 per cent of the possession but created only nine shots worth a combined 1.0 expected goals at the Wanda Metropolitano.

New Paris Saint-Germain signing Messi had scored 26 goals in 30 LaLiga games against Atleti – only managing more against Sevilla (30) and Valencia (27) – and a lack of cutting edge was evident without him.

"It's the first game we played against Barca without Messi," coach Simeone told a news conference. "Other games there has not been much difference to this one, but now Messi is not there."

By contrast, Atleti were ruthless in attack, led by former Barca superstar Luis Suarez.

He teed up the opener for Thomas Lemar, who returned the favour for Suarez to score against Barca for the first time, meaning he has netted against all 31 opponents he has faced in Spain's top flight.

Joao Felix was also involved in both goals, with the opener including one of four passes he completed to Suarez. He found no team-mate more often.

The Portugal international started ahead of Antoine Griezmann, who failed to fire from the bench, but Simeone was not ready to declare Joao Felix and Suarez his new first-choice front line.

"At this hour, we can't get carried away by one game," he said. "There's [Angel] Correa, Griezmann's moment. He scored in the Champions League.

"We have important footballers. Hopefully they can accept that we can be a group so we can be a team."

Diego Simeone is full of respect for Ronald Koeman and sympathises with his opposite number's current situation as Atletico Madrid prepare to host Barcelona in LaLiga.

Atletico lost their previous league match against Deportivo Alaves and are aiming to avoid suffering consecutive defeats in the competition for the first time since 2019.

Simeone's side sit in fourth and have won just one of their last 11 top-flight home games against Barca, who are unbeaten in their first LaLiga six matches this term, though there is mounting pressure on head coach Ronald Koeman.

Reports suggest the under-fire Koeman is soon to be relieved of his duties at Camp Nou, but Simeone spoke highly of the Dutchman ahead of Saturday's meeting in the Spanish capital.

"He will surely be in an uncomfortable situation and, on our side, I imagine that all of his colleagues respect him as a coach and he will surely always do well," Simeone told reporters at Friday's pre-match news conference.

"I am not the one to value anything. I respect Koeman very much, he has shown personality and I wish him the best. As for the transition, we are very busy with ourselves and we do not worry about what happens on another team.

"We think about the value of the rival players, Barcelona has great footballers, a very good coach with a lot of personality and we focus on doing well ourselves, improving ourselves."

 

The fixture may well signify the end for Koeman, who will be absent from the touchline after his dismissal against Cadiz, but it also sees Luis Suarez go up against his former club once again.

The forward has scored against 30 of the 31 opponents he has faced in LaLiga, with Barca the only side Suarez has failed to find the net against so far.

However, Simeone insisted there was no change in motivation for Suarez, while he also praised the versatility of Antoine Griezmann following his return to the club from Barcelona.

"I see him [Suarez] as always, since he arrived here, with the same hunger, enthusiasm and we try to empower him that the best thing he has is the goal," Simeone said.

"We always put him [Griezmann] where he normally plays. Footballers always have a privileged place, I like to play here.

"The important thing is where the team needs it and Antoine I have no doubt that where we put him, the other day as a midfielder, I am sure he can help us wherever we put him."

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli was left frustrated that key decisions went against his side in their 2-1 Champions League defeat to Atletico Madrid.

The Rossoneri were deservedly ahead through Rafael Leao after 20 minutes at San Siro before Franck Kessie received a second yellow card for catching Marcos Llorente on the foot.

The home side survived until the 84th minute when substitute Antoine Griezmann swept home a fine first-time finish to level the scores on Tuesday.

Then, deep into injury time, referee Cuneyt Cakir awarded a penalty against Pierre Kalulu for handball, allowing Luis Suarez to net the 97th-minute winner.

"More than anger, there's disappointment. We were close to an important result," Pioli told Sky Sport Italia.

"At 11 versus 11, we played much better. It's a shame because a little more attention was needed for the first goal. The boys made an important effort and losing complicates qualification for us.

"We're still missing that piece that can make the difference. We're not missing much. We played great football for half an hour, [and] we suffered when outnumbered. It's a performance that must give us confidence."

He added on the Kessie red card: "Franck had already been booked. It didn't look like a second-yellow offence in the 30th minute of the first half. The referee was certainly not the best on the pitch tonight."

The result put Atleti two points behind group leaders Liverpool and four clear of Milan, who lost to Jurgen Klopp's side on matchday one.

Diego Simeone admitted Atletico had been second best until Kessie's dismissal changed the course of the contest.

"In the first 30 minutes, they put us under pressure and we didn't have the tools to get out," he told reporters.

"Then, they were left with a man down and the game changed from there. We managed to impose ourselves in the second half.

"We have great room for improvement. We need to find that consistency in creating play and doing the right actions."

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."

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."

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone declined to rule out Saul Niguez leaving the LaLiga champions before the transfer window closes on Tuesday.

Saul, who was a key part of Atletico's LaLiga-winning side last season, has been heavily linked with Champions League holders Chelsea and Premier League giants Manchester United.

Atletico midfielder Saul was a 70th-minute substitute in Sunday's last-gasp 2-2 draw at home to Villarreal and Simeone was asked about his future amid further speculation.

"He knows my view already," Simeone said. "We talked and I told him what I think and feel. There's not much else.

"Between now and Tuesday we'll see. We are open in the knowledge that anything can happen in football."

Saul had replaced Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez, who Atletico revealed would undergo tests due to severe leg pain, having cancelled out Manu Trigueros' 52nd-minute opener.

Suarez is due to fly out to South America for Uruguay's 2022 CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers against Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador over the next fortnight.

"Luis Suarez ended the game with severe pain in the back of his left leg," Atletico said post-game. "He will undergo tests in the coming hours to determine the extent of the discomfort."

Atletico needed a fortunate 95th-minute Aissa Mandi own goal to rescue a point, despite dominating proceedings with Villarreal scoring from their only two shots for the game.

Simeone's Atletico came from behind twice, with Suarez levelling up after Manu Trigueros' 52nd-minute opener, before Arnaut Danjuma restored Villarreal's lead with quarter of an hour to play.

Atletico have not lost any of their 17 La Liga games where Suarez scored (W14, D3).

"That's the joy of not losing a match that was heading in that direction," Simeone said. "It was an injustice, but this game can be like that. It was our best game so far."

Diego Simeone revealed Atletico Madrid remain in the market for a forward after defeating Elche 1-0 win on Sunday.

Angel Correa's third goal in two games at the start of the new season proved decisive as Atletico battled to back-to-back opening victories – the fourth time they have done so under Simeone.

The makeshift striker's 39th-minute finish marked his eighth goal in his last 10 games across all competitions, having previously scored seven in his last 63 for the LaLiga champions.

Luis Suarez appeared after the hour mark for the hosts, but Atletico are still trying to sign a forward, with a reported move for Dusan Vlahovic most recently falling through.

Asked for an update on the forward situation, Simeone responded: "When we prepare a squad we do it thinking of having two players per place.

"If in the end it cannot arrive, we will look for a solution as we have always done."

On the upturn of Correa's form, Simeone added: "First he is playing where he feels most comfortable.

"In the centre of the attack he is fast, he is dynamic, he turns better than anyone. And now he is having more forcefulness, that gives him peace of mind and confidence. That allows him to have more confidence."

 

Diego Simeone is confused by the rules for handball after Atletico Madrid were on the wrong end of a contentious penalty decision against Celta Vigo.

LaLiga champions Atleti began their title defence with a gritty 2-1 victory over Celta on Sunday – Angel Correa's double proving decisive.

Correa opened the scoring with a brilliant strike in the first half, but Celta equalised before the hour after Marcos Llorente was adjudged to have handled from Iago Aspas' flick.

Jan Oblak had fumbled a cross to Aspas, who attempted to prod home. His effort struck Llorente's chest and rolled to his knee before bouncing onto the midfielder's arm and, to Atleti's fury, the referee pointed to the spot after checking with the VAR.

Correa swiftly restored Atletico's lead, and the champions held firm despite a late flurry – Aspas missing an open goal before Mario Hermoso and Hugo Mallo were sent off for violent conduct in stoppage time.

In his post-match news conference, Simeone revealed he is struggling to understand what the rules regarding handball are.

"The other day we were meeting with the referees and it is very difficult to understand what is handball and what is not," Simeone said.

"I still believe that VAR is very good and that the referees seek to decide what they see as the best."

Backing up Simeone's point, Celta striker Aspas – who converted the spot-kick – acknowledged he did not initially believe a penalty would be awarded.

"It is not clear to me about the handball. If I'm honest, at the time I thought it wasn't a penalty," the forward told Movistar+. 

"I didn't see it quite right. Marcos [Llorente] told me it was not and I trusted him until the referee decided it was a penalty."

Atleti are now unbeaten in their past 12 LaLiga openers, and Simeone was pleased with a typically battling performance – a 60.7 per cent duel success rate demonstrating their approach. 

"We played a very good game. We created many difficulties for a team that plays very well," Simeone said.

"In the second half after the penalty, a different dynamism is generated and the team responds very well with a goal.

"The pace with which it was played was very high. It makes me very happy. We talked about how to solve this very different preparation that all the teams had and we tried to make it a challenge and not a problem."

Diego Simeone has included his son Giuliano in the Atletico Madrid squad for the first match of their LaLiga title defence.

Atletico, who won their second league crown under Simeone last term, start away to Celta Vigo on Sunday.

They were linked with centre-forwards for much of the off-season, but their inability to bring in significant reinforcements in that department has seen Simeone's second son get a chance.

Giuliano, 18, started all five of Atletico's pre-season friendlies and in doing so earmarked himself as a potential alternative in attack.

Nominally a left-winger, Giuliano has enjoyed encouraging performances while featuring in a more central berth in pre-season.

Prior to July, Giuliano had never featured for Atletico's senior team, but now he could make his competitive debut at Balaidos on Sunday.

New signing Rodrigo De Paul is also in the selection following arrival from Udinese for a reported €35million.

He joined having earned himself a stellar reputation in Serie A, his 82 key passes in 2020-21 bettered by only Hakan Calhanoglu (98).

 

Only five players got more assists than his nine, but all of them massively out-performed their modest expected assists records, which ranged from 3.4 to 6.7. De Paul topped the charts for expected assists with 10.3 xA, evidence that his assists reflected the quality of his service rather than him getting lucky or benefiting from unusually good finishing by team-mates.

Yet the area that highlights a particular compatibility with Atleti is the fact he won more duels (294) than anyone else in Serie A in 2020-21.

Combine that with his league-leading completed dribbles (122) and it paints a picture of a hard-working player who also possesses the quality to get his team on the front foot.

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