Diego Simeone says Atletico Madrid have no excuse not to end their Liga campaign with a strong performance against Celta Vigo on Saturday.
Atleti saw their domestic title challenge end with a shock 2-1 defeat at relegated Levante last weekend, with leaders Barcelona three points clear and boasting a better head-to-head record.
The capital club now host Celta at the Vicente Calderon knowing that a victory could at least see them leapfrog Real Madrid into second place, should Zinedine Zidane’s side fail to beat Deportivo La Coruna.
And head coach Simeone wants his side to produce one more quality display before they face their city rivals in the Champions League final on May 28.
“There is no kind of excuse in the last match,” he said. “We are finishing a fantastic, huge season. We look forward to another round to continue competing with Barcelona and Real Madrid.
“Other years we were further away and this year we were closer. This is what makes me more and more happy.”
Celta, who are assured of a Europa League spot, will finish an impressive campaign in fifth if they match Athletic Bilbao’s result against Sevilla.
Head coach Eduardo Berizzo, who agreed a one-year extension to his contract in April, has guided his side to just one defeat in nine matches since they were thrashed 7-1 by Madrid on March 5.
With Celta having won on four of their last eight visits to Atletico, forward Nolito is confident his side can enjoy a successful trip to the capital and safeguard fifth place.
“We have nothing to lose. It will be a difficult game and we’re going to try to compete with Atletico to get the three points,” he said on Thursday.
“Nobody thought we would be close to fifth or sixth. It would be fantastic to get into the top five.”
Simeone will again sit in the stands as he serves the last of his three-game touchline ban, while a number of first-team players could be rested for the Champions League final now that winning La Liga is beyond them.
Fernando Torres will be keen to build on his 10 league goals in front of the home fans as he looks to safeguard a new contract, while Tiago could return after spending five months out with a broken leg.
Celta will be without Claudio Beauvue (Achilles) and defender Andreu Fontas.
Key Opta Stats:
– Atletico Madrid have won their last six home league games in a row, keeping five clean sheets in that period.
– Atletico have lost fewer league games at home this season than any other Liga side, with their only defeat coming in matchday three courtesy of Barcelona, 1-2.
– Celta Vigo are one of only three sides to have defeated Atletico at Vicente Calderon this season, alongside Barcelona and Benfica (back in January in Copa del Rey, with a 2-3 win which knocked them out).
– Nolito has won 14 points for his side in La Liga this season thanks to his goals (12), with only Ruben Castro and Aspas securing more points (16 points).
– Nolito has scored three of Celta’s last five goals against Atletico in La Liga.
– Celta de Vigo (13) and Atletico (12) have won more games by a single goal margin than any other side in La Liga this season.