Speaking to the media ahead of the derby against Real Madrid on Sunday, Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone has confirmed the availability of key star Jan Oblak for the encounter.
The Slovenian goalkeeper has been dealing with an injury that he picked up against Real Sociedad. Playing in the Champions League game against FC Porto saw Oblak aggravate the injury, following which he did not play the next couple of matches versus Celta Vigo and Bayer Leverkusen.
So, there had been a lot of doubts over his involvement at the Civitas Metropolitano on Sunday. But Simeone has confirmed that the first-choice goalkeeper will be available for the game.
Speaking in his pre-match presser (h/t MARCA), the Atletico Madrid manager said: “Oblak will be there tomorrow.”
Talking about other potential absentees, Simeone confirmed that Stefan Savic and Jose Maria Gimenez will miss out, but hoped they would be back soon.
“Last season cost us a lot. Savic and Giménez were away for a long time, we hope this season doesn’t happen, they all work to be with us as long as possible, they are very important and give us more tools for the game,” he said.
Talking about the controversies leading up to the derby, he added: “I focus on what concerns me and on the place I have, which is that of the coach. I look for ways to play a great game in a match that is special for them, for us and for the fans.”
On Real Madrid’s prowess, Simeone said: “They have an extraordinary team with young players who are going through transition. They have a habit of always being close to winning, they have a great team. We have to play the game that we are interested in playing.”
On reaching 408 matches as a manager in La Liga, he said: “I think that time is related to the results and a great job by the club, which has always given me great footballers. And only to have committed players.
“We have had them in this time, I am lucky for that, for keeping the most complex that there is in football, players dedicated to a cause. I am lucky as a coach, I could not have been so many years otherwise.”
Atletico Madrid lost their last game 2-0 to Bayer Leverkusen. On going into the derby on the back of a defeat, the manager said: “I would have liked to arrive after a victory but looking at it from the positive side, the defeat creates tension.
“We are going to face a great team that has great footballers. For many years they have competed in these games like Modric. And then there is a generation young with very good footballers for that transition. That’s why they compete as they compete.”
Simeone also gave his take on Vinicius Jr’s dance celebrations, saying: “We live in a society in which we are all involved. We are people and this is the society we have.”
On the team morale after the defeat to Leverkusen: “I always think that in important games like the derby it is important to arrive because of confidence and security, but when the game starts it is a new story.
“For those of us who played or were coaches, we understand that everything was fine until the referee’s whistle but then everything changes.”
On Griezmann’s reduced game-time situation, he said: “We understand that Morata and Joao are doing very well and Griezmann does very well in the last 30 minutes because he gives us hierarchy and partnership in attack. At the moment we are deciding it this way.”
Atletico Madrid midfielder on the derby against Real Madrid: “Very difficult to beat them”
Following a 1-1 draw in their Champions League opener against Lazio, Atletico Madrid will shift all their attention to La Liga, as they brace themselves for the derby against Real Madrid this weekend.
Heading into this game, Atleti midfielder Marcos Llorente spoke about Real Madrid’s quality and Atletico Madrid’s chances of squeezing all three points from this iconic derby.
Llorente on Madrid derby
“The sensations are good. The team is very good, the other day we played a great game despite ending up drawing. I really think that the team did a great job that must be maintained for this match,” Llorente said in an interview with Diario AS.
When asked whether or not Real Madrid being tagged as favourites could aid Atleti, the midfielder said, “Honestly, it neither motivates me nor demotivates me. We simply have to do what we work on during the week, what the coach asks of us.”
Llorente stressed the importance of the game, adding, “It is a great rival we have in front of us, they are having a very good start to the season and that motivates me and everyone to try to play a good game.”
“Real Madrid is a great club, they have great players and it is very difficult to beat them. I think we have competed, we have also achieved several draws, but in the end, either you go out one hundred percent and do things very, very well or it is difficult to beat them,” he added.
A former member of the Real Madrid youth academy, Llorente joined Atletico Madrid in 2019. Since then, he has racked up over 150 competitive appearances for Los Colchoneros.
Llorente, though, said he feels no sense of vindication when he performs well against his former team.
“No. In the end, it’s been many years since I left there and I’m at Atlético. Perhaps in the first years, those types of feelings and sensations can arise, but today they no longer do,” he said.
Llorente on Vinicius, Koke & Bellingham
The Atletico Madrid star went on to talk about other aspects of the game, including the fact that his team had one less player every time they faced Real Madrid last season.
“I have zero worries. These are things that are not in our remit, that escape our hands. We play football, the referees referee and those who have to decide decide,” he said.
Llorente, in fact, said that the return of Koke could be a real boost for Atleti. “It is always good that Koke is with us, both on the field and in the day-to-day life of the game,” he said.
“Beyond the grass. The support he gives, the advice he gives us, his experience. it is always important to have him and it is great news that he is already training with us,” he added.
Talking about the absence of Vinicius Junior and the form of Jude Bellingham, Llorente said, “Well, you have to be careful with everyone. All Real Madrid players are very good and can make a difference at any moment of the game. Bellingham is having a great start and we have to take that into account and be very focused.”
Finally, Marcos Llorente put out a message for all the Atletico Madrid fans, claiming their support ahead of this crucial encounter this weekend.
“It will be a full house as always. We don’t have to tell them anything, they know the importance of this match for Atlético, we know that they never fail, they are always supporting us and we count on them,” he said.