Monday, June 27, 2022

Simeone not taking top-four spot for granted

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 9 May 2022

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Diego Simeone insists Atletico Madrid still have plenty of work to do if they are to finish in LaLiga’s top four and qualify for the Champions League.

Atleti beat fierce rivals Real Madrid 1-0 at Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday to move six points clear of fifth-placed Real Betis with three games to go.

Yannick Carrasco’s 40th-minute penalty, awarded for Jesus Vallejo’s barge on Matheus Cunha, was enough for Atletico to snap an 11-game winless run in this fixture.

Los Rojiblancos can seal a 10th straight season of Champions League football with three points against Elche on Wednesday, but Simeone is taking nothing for granted.

“There are three games left. Everyone is competing to finish fourth and it will not be easy,” he told Movistar. “But of course this is a strong and decisive step for us.

“We played the game we wanted to play. We had many chances but couldn’t be forceful and that pushed us to the limit against a rival that improves as the minutes go by.”

Atletico hit the post through Carrasco late on and outshot their opponents 16 to 15, but just two of those attempts were on target – one of those being Carrasco’s penalty.

Madrid had six shots on target by comparison – only against Cadiz have they tested the opposition goalkeeper more times in LaLiga this season (nine) without scoring.

Jan Oblak has struggled for form this season but produced a number of fine saves to help Atleti to their first ever win over Madrid at Wanda Metropolitano.

Indeed, those six saves are the most he has made in a single LaLiga match this campaign, surpassing the five he registered in March’s 3-1 win against Betis.

Like head coach Simeone, though, the Atletico goalkeeper is not thinking of Champions League football just yet.

“We’re still not sure of that,” he said. “Until it’s secured then the weight is going to be on us. On Wednesday we have to come out in the best way and get the three points.

“There are three games left, which is a lot. Hopefully we’re not made to suffer until the last minutes.”

Following their midweek trip to 14th-placed Elche, Atletico host Sevilla and then travel to Real Sociedad on the final day.

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