Atletico Madrid will look to get back to winning ways in La Liga when they lock horns with Celta Vigo at the Civitas Metropolitano on Saturday night.
Los Rojiblancos have not made the best of start to the season and are currently seventh in the table, having collected just seven points from their first four matches. But a morale-boosting last-minute win over FC Porto in the UEFA Champions League could act as the catalyst for the Rojiblancos.
Ahead of the game, Diego Simeone addressed the media in his customary pre-match briefing. The Atletico Madrid manager was asked about the situation of Antoine Griezmann, with Barcelona threatening legal action against the Colchoneros over the €40 million payment dispute.
When asked if he was worried that Griezmann might feel let down by the club due to their stance, Simeone deflected from the topic and replied: “I think Celta is working very well. That’s what really worries us.”
Talking about his opponents on Saturday, Simeone also said: “They are working very well, have been competing hard. They play very well, with a coach who has very clear ideas.”
On the decision to keep using Griezmann for 30 minutes or less in each game, Simeone said: “I have been very clear day by day. I have already explained the same thing several times and I will not repeat it again.”
In a recent interview, Atletico Madrid president Enrique Cerezo stated that he had not passed any instructions to Simeone about regulating Griezmann’s minute.
When asked about the club supremo’s statements, the manager replied: “If the president says so. Where a captain rules, the sailor has no sway.”
The manager also spoke highly of Mario Hermoso, showering praise for how he had turned things around at the Metropolitano after a difficult first season.
“He has already shown his qualities after the first season when he didn’t play much. In the La Liga triumph in his second season, he was very important. Last year he had competition from Reinildo, but he continues to work very well,” Simeone said.
“We are going to need everyone because the team needs the energy to give people what they want to see.”
Fans were unhappy with some substitutions and tactical decisions made by Simeone in the game against Porto. In particular, they had whistled when Joao Felix had been taken off for Angel Correa.
Talking about the atmosphere in the stands, the Atletico Madrid boss said: “I have everything very clear because I have been at Atletico for a long time and I know everything that happens.
“What we have to do is entertain people and get them hooked. It depends on us. After so many years at the club, it’s all pretty clear to me.”
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.