Simeone: “We’re all waiting for the refereeing controversy to be clarified”
In Saturday’s derby, Atlético’s coach will overtake former Real Madrid coach Miguel Muñoz to become the coach to have overseen the most league games with the same club - 425.
Diego Simeone spoke to the media on Friday to look ahead to Saturday’s derby against Real Madrid. The Atleti coach will equal Luis Aragonés’ club record of 612 games in charge of the Rojiblancos and overtake former Real Madrid coach Miguel Muñoz to become the coach to have overseen the most league games with the same club (they are both level on 424 games). El Cholo acknowledged that he is fortunate to still be at the helm 11 years after taking the job at Atleti, with whom he averages a 60% win rate. “I am lucky and I am grateful to the club and to all of those players who have been involved in the team. Without all of those factors, both for the club and for the players, it is impossible to achieve those figures. I am grateful to the footballers, they made me able to express myself. The numbers are accompanied by the results. I am in the place where I want to be and I am delighted to be able to continue,” he said.
Simeone then took questions about the derby and opponents, Real Madrid.
Vinicius: “I think his growth has been incredible, Since [Santiago] Solari first brought him into the side if I’m not mistaken. Real Madrid took a big gamble on him, but he has improved his figures year after year and he’s in a great moment as a player”.
Barrios as a replacement for De Paul: “I don’t look it that way, it’s not about being thoughtful with players. I look for what best gives us the best possibility of winning the game. We also trained with Llorente in the middle, with Correa, Morata returned to training today, Memphis came back yesterday... We have those alternatives for that position”.
Koke believes logging second place is still possible: “We’ll take it one game at a time as we have done during all of these past few years, that has served us well”.
Atleti’s poor away record with referee Gil Manzano, who will be in charge of tomorrow’s derby: “Miguel [Gil Marín] presented his argument at the time (about Ceballos being forgiven a red card in the Super Cup) with what he said and what he wrote. We have also won games which Gil Manzano has refereed, I think we won away at Cádiz. Like all referees, he has a responsibility in every match and I’m sure he will do a great job tomorrow. The players will help him, as they always do, and obviously I hope he has a good game. Because every day the referees are being more closely observed - just like we, and the players are scrutinised, refs are being looked at with all of these issues that are going on which have yet to be clarified”.
Referees, when you talk about issues being clarified, what are you referring to? “What we all are hearing about, what’s happening with Barcelona. It’s still not clear. And of course we are waiting for everything to be fluid and healthy - because this is our livelihoods, and we all want to compete with the same possibilities”.
Is it a relief that the focus is on Barcagate, Gil Manzano and the referees rather than on you and your team? “Hmmm, that’s a good question... yes!”
In what areas has the team improved since the World Cup? “The team is much better, because we are playing as a team, we dropped Koke to his old position in midfield which has given our game more fluidity. And obviously, that has improved how we move from midfield to attack. Perhaps we are suffering a little more at the back, but we are trying to find a balance. As for Mario [Hermoso], I have no doubt that his development is a direct consequence of what he understands the team needs, not what Simeone needs but what the team needs. And apart from that, he is playing more regularly. I have no complaints with anyone when it comes to commitment, it’s more a case of performing, and when players are performing well, everything comes together”.
What are you expecting from Reinildo in tomorrow’s game against Madrid? “That he creates chances on goal. That’s what we are all looking for. He has the strength to do it, he has the vitality and we have seen him do it in other games, for example in Bilbao. We need that from him as well as what he can contribute defensively”.
Objective: “Pulling on the Atletico shirt and competing in every game gives us all the motivation we need... There are seasons where we can compete to win something and others when that option is further away. This season, we want to achieve the objectives which the club has set, which are not small objectives. Those who underestimate what we are aiming for might think that qualifying for the Champions League is not very ambitious. But from where we have come from, and where we want to be, qualifying for the Champions League is very important - as is to be among the best sides in the Spanish league during the past 11 years. And for the club, to continue competing in a competition that economically, is beneficial to us and which helps us to continue growing. And for the players, every time they pull on the red and white shirt, in every match, to generate that excitement”.
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