Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone is facing the prospect of not qualifying for the Champions League for the first time in his career there. Los Rojiblancos are three points clear of Real Betis but with the latter playing on Saturday night, they could be level on points when they play this weekend.
It doesn’t come much tougher than the Madrid derby. Atletico Madrid haven’t beaten Real Madrid since 2016 in La Liga, a record Simeone will be keen to end.
Even with so much on the line for Atleti, most of the coverage in the lead-up has been dominated by the prospect of them giving Los Blancos a guard of honour for winning the league. Simeone was having none of it.
“[The media] are always looking for question to try and generate controversy, what he said, what he felt… The reality is what the club said in a press release, explaining perfectly, congratulating Real Madrid above all, the footballers, the technical staff, because they have done a great job. Great respect for Madrid that has just become champions but we have more respect for our people that are with us the whole time.”
Mundo Deportivo covered the press conference, where Simeone was asked how he prepares for big games.
“”It would have to be an interview to be able to go through everything, it’s been a lot of games in a lot of competitions, against a very strong opponent.”
“It’s always exciting facing an important rival like Madrid and even more so after they have just become champions.”
The press did eventually come onto the elephant in the room. Earlier in the week Diario AS had reported that Atletico Madrid may have to sell players if they don’t make the top four. Simeone didn’t go that far, but did reference the financial aspect.
“The reality is that we are in a decisive situation, there are four finals left of the 14 games which we had put in front of ourselves. We will go into the derby in the best way, with a lot of enthusiasm and try to avoid everything that is being said about the situation. What we are concerned about is the result.”
“It will be very hard until the end, La Real, Villarreal, Sevilla, Barcelona and ourselves. We are going in search of our objective that is a priority for the club, in our annual planning, let’s hope we make it game by game.”
After a sapping Champions League tie during midweek, some have wondered if Real Madrid might rest players for the derby. Ancelotti in his own pre-match presser that the he would play his best team but also confirmed that Andriy Lunin would replace Thibaut Courtois in goal. Simeone wasn’t worried about any potential rotations.
“They won’t change the structure nor the way of playing. Carlo is a great manager, with very clear ideas. The names might change but the idea won’t.”