Simeone: "Knowing Torres, I imagine he'll continue with us"
El Cholo looked ahead to Atlético Madrid's home game against Leganés and his new, trimmed-down squad: “It's a small group, but a competitive one”.
No time to rest for Diego Simeone who was back in the hotseat this afternoon to look ahead to tomorrow night's visit from Leganés. The Atleti coach declared that he is not too perturbed by his new-look, trimmed down squad because all of his remaining staff “are competitive players”. He also spoke about Fernando Torres who looks set to see out the rest of his contract: “Knowing him, I can't really imagine any other outcome”.
Augusto left last month and now Carrasco and Gaitán have gone; that leaves you with just 17 outfield players for the rest of the season. Doesn't that worry you at all?
Actually, no, not really. First of all, I wish both of them the best of luck, they always gave everything they had for the team and the group, I thank them for the effort they made. And as for where that leaves us, the team's fine, it's a reduced squad but a very competitive one. That will give us the chance to give everyone playing time and we will try to dish them out as equally as we can.
Has Griezmann been affected by the front cover stories being published by the Barcelona-based sports press?
To be honest with you I don't think Griezmann even reads the press. We're thinking only about tomorrow, and the difficulties he is going to face against Lega. Away from home, Leganés close up well at the back, they make the most of the dead-ball moves they get, they work well using spaces they create.... All of that concerns me, after tomorrow's game we'll start focusing on Sunday's match. There are only a few of us and we are all ready for battle.
Torres to see out his contract with Atleti
Torres is staying. How do you see that?
In the best possible way, and hoping that he will give the best he has got from now until the end of the season. Knowing Fernando, I couldn't envisage any other situation.
Atlético at full throttle
A lot of that was down to being able to win the ball back higher up the pitch, and managing our counter-attacks well when we recovered possession, like the move when Griezmann struck the post - that move involved just two touches… It's about taking advantage of the spaces that our opponents leave us when we are winning and being forceful going forward, that helps. I don't think we played most of the game in their half but we were very precise and dominant.
Can you see Asier Garitano coaching at a big club?
It's always important to maintain equilibrium. You need to maintain some emotional stability between the players, who are all different emotionally and that's the hardest part; you need to prioritize the collective - the group always comes before the individual. Garitano is a fantastic coach, many people had doubts about Valverde joining Barça but he has successfully changed the system and he's playing a 4-4-2 better than anyone. Football is a marvellous thing and having better players improves us as coaches.
Are Atlético now hitting their best form of the season so far?
In terms of our game, we have been consistent in our last three matches but to maintain that, we need intensity and to know in which direction this team is heading. We are playing with a very determined style and once we get close to maximizing individual potential, collectively we will be stronger as a team.
Atleti have the best figures in LaLiga in 2018. How do you see the final few furlongs of the campaign?
I see it exactly as everyone else does. In the last 14 years, the champions have always ended up being Madrid and Barça, apart from the year when we took the title. In 2008, Villarreal were runners-up. We cannot afford to think about anything other than our next game.
It's not easy to play for Atlético. Since we arrived here, only a few players have managed to earn the right as first choice starters. I'm reminded of players like Oblak, Savic, Vrsaljko, Augusto, Griezmann, Correa... the lads from the youth teams like Thomas, Saúl… they all had to fight to win their place. Like Correa said, to play for Atlético you need to be very strong-willed and mentally tough; we are expected to battle against the very best and that means you need to give 110% - that's what [Jesús] Gil said to me when I first came here.