The Argentine’s side is flying high right now but he’s keeping their feet firmly on the ground
Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone could not hide the enthusiasm brought on by Saturday’s 1-0 win over Barcelona, though he dismissed the idea that he can see similarities with his 2013-14 title-winning team.
Los Colchoneros produced a solid display at the Wanda Metropolitano to defeat Ronald Koeman’s misfiring Barca and go up to second in La Liga, only behind Real Sociedad – who have played a game more – by virtue of scoring two goals fewer.
That victory extended Atletico’s unbeaten run to 24 games in La Liga and opened up a nine-point gap between themselves and Barca.
With defending champions Real Madrid also failing to inspire much confidence, having rarely impressed this season and been held by Villarreal earlier on Saturday, Atletico look like many people’s favourite for the title.
Atletico have not won it since 2013-14, their first for 18 years at the time, but Simeone is keeping his feet on the ground.
When asked if he saw similarities with his previous title-winning team, Simeone told reporters: “No, I don’t see them.”
But Atletico’s improvement from 2019-20 is not lost on the Argentinian, who added: “The most important things we value about the growth of footballers from last season to this one is being seen.
“We are working better on the pitch, we are being more complicit to share what the team needs and we see it.
“We need everyone. Felipe, who played much more continuously last season; Renan Lodi, who will surely be important; [Geoffrey] Kondogbia enters little by little; Saul [Niguez] is finding his best form; [Angel] Correa is showing extraordinary growth, not to mention Joao Felix or [Diego] Costa’s enthusiasm when he came on.
“The group generates enthusiasm for me, because I see them wanting to look for important things, game by game.”
The win saw Atletico end a run of 20 consecutive La Liga matches without a victory over Barcelona, while Simeone had not beaten them in 17 previous league meetings.
But, despite the momentousness of such a victory, Simeone remained reserved and dismissed its importance.
“Football is game by game,” he said. “Sometimes we have to win and sometimes we have to lose, in the previous games [against Barca] we had always been close to winning, aside from in the Supercopa in Saudi Arabia.
“Today we won, that does not change the plan of what is sought. I’m very happy with the team’s effort.”