A defiant Diego Simeone declared “there is no greater motivation” than playing for Atletico Madrid after his side boosted their LaLiga top-four hopes with a narrow victory at Osasuna.
Head coach Simeone cast doubt over his future before the 1-0 win over Osasuna, suggesting how Atletico finish the season will dictate whether he stays in Madrid.
With Atletico out of Europe and eliminated from the Copa del Rey in midweek by Real Madrid, Saul Niguez’s second-half strike at Osasuna may have somewhat eased the mounting pressure on the Colchoneros boss.
Simeone acknowledged the blow of Thursday’s defeat to fierce rivals Madrid, but he says his players should need little inspiration to finish the season strong.
He said: “We have a way of thinking and the club has a way of living. Do not lower your shoulders, always go forward and get up in adverse situations.
“We will focus on the league. There is no greater motivation than playing for Atletico.
“We are out of the Copa and out of Europe, but we play for Atletico, and for Atletico you have to play until the last game.”
4 – @saulniguez has scored his fourth goal after being subbed on in his league career in Europe, all for @atletienglish in @LaLigaEn. He ended a 35 games run without scoring in the competition. Saviour. pic.twitter.com/MqLbTVyEvs
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 29, 2023
Victory over Osasuna moved Atletico three points clear of Villarreal and Real Betis in fifth and sixth respectively, having played a game more, while Simeone’s side trail Real Sociedad – who play Madrid on Sunday – by four.
Simeone’s visitors were largely indebted to some fine goalkeeping from Jan Oblak before a calm 74th-minute finish from substitute Saul.
The Spain international has had to wait for his chance after the World Cup, but Simeone believes Saul, who Valencia are reportedly interested in signing on loan, is beginning to find form.
“He has been working very well since the return of the World Cup, with good consistency,” the coach said. “He is becoming more and more identified with the patterns that we are looking for.
“It’s a pity that we couldn’t increase the score after with the counter-attack situations we had, because Osasuna, at home, are very strong, and the last minutes were difficult.”
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