Diego Simeone has scoffed at the suggestion Atletico Madrid’s LaLiga title hopes will be over if they lose to Real Madrid in Sunday’s derby.
Reigning champions Atletico go into the game trailing their city rivals by 10 points, albeit with a game in hand.
It is a major moment in the season for both clubs, described by Simeone as “very important”, and a victory for the hosts at the Santiago Bernabeu would represent a significant step towards the title.
But Simeone, who confirmed striker Luis Suarez will be involved after a midweek injury scare, is not willing to countenance surrender at this stage of the season.
“As always we are quick to say that LaLiga is over,” Simeone said. “LaLiga will always be competitive because there are very good teams.
“There is a group of five or six teams in the upper part that are working very well. We are going to go game by game as ever, and we are not going to change that.”
This Derbi will be the 169th between Real and Atletico in LaLiga, with the Bernabeu giants having won 89 times and the Rojoblancos picking up 39 victories.
Real have avoided defeat in their past five home LaLiga games against Atletico (W2 D3) and have kept a clean sheet in the most recent three.
They have never had four successive shutouts against Atletico at home, but that is what Carlo Ancelotti will be pushing for in LaLiga’s headline game of the weekend.
Atletico have not won any of their past seven games against Madrid across all competitions (D4 L3), which ranks as their longest such winless run in the rivalry under Simeone.
However, Ancelotti, back for a second spell as Madrid boss this season, has failed to win in his previous four LaLiga games against Atletico (D1 L3).
“We are going to play a very important game, as it always is against our rival,” said Simeone in a Saturday news conference. “They are in a great spell as they have shown since the arrival of Ancelotti, with a defensive strength that enhances all their offensive weapons. We will have to take the game where we think we can hurt them.”
If Simeone is looking for a battling presence in his side, he might well summon Suarez to start, despite the former Barcelona striker going off in pain early in the win over Porto on Tuesday.
Suarez looked for all the world as though he had suffered a serious muscle blow, only for medical checks since the game to give him the all clear.
“Tomorrow he will be there, and we will assess whether he starts or comes on later,” Simeone said.
Suarez has scored 10 goals in 13 LaLiga appearances against Real Madrid, more than any other player has netted against Los Blancos in the competition since his arrival in Spain seven years ago.
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