Atletico Madrid will be aiming to bounce back to winning ways when they lock horns with Athletic Club at San Mames on Saturday night in La Liga.
Los Rojiblancos were held to a goalless draw by Belgian side Club Brugge in the UEFA Champions League earlier this week. And Diego Simeone and his charges are under pressure to correct course at the earliest possible, given that they are already six points behind leaders Barcelona in La Liga.
On the eve of the game, Simeone spoke to the media and naturally, the subject of Joao Felix dominated the press conference after his antics in midweek and speculations surrounding his future.
On Joao Felix’s lack of game-time: “I am going to be very clear, just as I have spoken with him. I want to win, with Morata, with Correa…the only reality is what it is. In the season that we won La Liga, he had an incredible start and then he got injured.
“In the second season, he started playing in Osasuna and ended up playing until he got injured. At the beginning of this new season he had a very good preseason, he started very well.
“When his performance has dropped now, another teammate plays, because João is the same as everyone and I treat everyone the same way. When he’s back to being good, when he’s back running when the team needs him, he’s going to play.
“This is about performance, and in performance, I understand that there are other players who are doing better.”
On Felix’s gestures in training on Thursday: “It’s normal that yesterday’s gesture that came out on social media was because he was playing with De Paul.”
“Now he has the focus on him and anything he can generate. You, who are with the magnifying glass, give your opinion as you believe. I say everything I have to say to the players in the locker room, not here.”
On the unity in the dressing room: “The team is very good and there is only one reality, which is the playing field, and on the playing field there is a coach who chooses based on needs and chooses what he thinks is best for each match. I’m not going to remove João to lose.”
On Joao’s attitude and talks with him: “I love it because they find the spotlight. He is a fantastic boy, he gets along with his teammates… we are talking about game performance, nothing more.”
On the Portuguese’s performances: “I’m having a hard time getting the best out of João. I have to get the most out of those who are.”
On the lack of goals: “I think the good thing is to have scoring situations. The more you have means that the team is after winning the game. The only way I know to reach the goal is to keep insisting.”
On Athletic Club and Ernesto Valverde: “I love how they are playing. Valverde has found that line of play, approaching how he made Barcelona play. I like how they play, how they press, how they work as a block, so we expect a difficult opponent.”
On the lack of a well-defined starting XI: “When another coach changes it seems that he rotates, but in my case, it seems I am criticised. I do it always looking for the best for the team.”
Source: Atletico Madrid YouTube
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.