Los Rojiblancos’ season is in danger of collapse, but their Argentine head coach is thinking just of going”game by game”.
Diego Simeone has contested Atletico Madrid to show they are”living” when they resume La Liga responsibilities against Granada on Saturday.
A miserable run of results, not helped by a number of key injuries, has left Atleti’s season in danger of derailing a little more than a month into the new year.
They’re far from favourites for success in either competition, given they sit 13 points off leaders Madrid at the top flight and have to face holders Liverpool in the last 16 in Europe.
Simeone, who now believes every remaining match to be a final, needs his players to show their mettle over what could be a decisive couple weeks of their season.
“We’ve all finals,” he told reporters on Friday. “We have a challenge and an important responsibility.
“We don’t go beyond taking things game by game, we’ve always believed in that. I expect a complete stadium, understanding the situation of the group, and the staff understanding the situation of the championship. That’s the most important thing.”
When asked about Madrid and Barcelona’s Copa exits this week, he added: “I’m very respectful of every team and I don’t provide an opinion on situations which don’t involve us. I just consider improving and getting out of this dynamic, which is not so good. We must demonstrate that we are alive.”
The fantastic news for Atleti is that striker Diego Costa and midfielder Koke are close to returning.
A back problem has kept Costa sidelined since November, while Koke has only played once since December 14 because of hamstring issues.
Simeone hopes the comeback of a proven goalscorer and an influential playmaker can give his assault the lift they need.
“He’s coming back. We’ll see whether he can play from the beginning,” he said of Koke.
“Technically, he is another footballer, he sees more than others and we have more chances to create chances when he’s on the pitch.
He is looking forward to coming back and the doctors will determine his all-clear when it’s appropriate.
“It’s important for the group [to have him back] and when he returns, we’ll have a player who has always given us a lot.”