Diego Simeone sees a silver lining in Atletico Madrid’s premature Copa del Rey exit despite his disappointment over the last-16 loss to Girona.
Atleti succumbed to a dramatic defeat on away goals when Wednesday’s see-sawing second leg at Wanda Metropolitano finished 3-3, the teams having drawn 1-1 at Estadi Montilivi seven days earlier.
The Rojiblancos have been forced to quickly refocus on LaLiga as they prepare for Saturday’s trip to bottom-placed Huesca, a clear opportunity to at least momentarily cut Barcelona’s lead back to two points.
Simeone admitted the Copa del Rey failure was far from ideal but, amid a raft of injuries that has left him with just 13 fit senior squad members, believes it will help the title hopefuls invest greater focus on a promising league campaign.
“It is clear that being out of the cup is not good,” Simeone told a news conference.
“It hurts us, but it gives us the strength to prepare ourselves better for what is coming.
“LaLiga has been really competitive in the last year, every team plays well and has chances to win. Everyone competes well.
“Huesca have grown a lot since their change of coach. They almost beat Valencia, they beat [Real] Betis and they competed very well in their last match [against Leganes].
“Therefore it’s going to be a tough match and we need to take it in the direction we want it to go.”
— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) January 18, 2019
Midfielder Saul Niguez, who sustained a thigh injury against Girona, is one of seven players unavailable for the clash with Huesca, who are 10 points shy of safety.
Nikola Kalinic [tonsillopharyngitis] and Gelson Martins [thigh], both of whom are linked with moves away, will also be absent, prompting Simeone to replenish his travelling squad with several youth prospects.
“We trust the boys of the youth team,” the Argentine said. “We already used them during pre-season, so they know what it takes to compete with the first team.
“If they come with us it is because they are ready to play, so regardless of who plays I’m sure they will do a great job.”
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