Simeone defends star strikers Suarez and Griezmann after slow start

By Sports Desk September 20, 2021

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone has backed star forward pair Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann after their slow starts to the new LaLiga season.

The Spanish champions drew 0-0 with Athletic Bilbao in LaLiga on Saturday, days after another scoreless draw against FC Porto in the Champions League.

Suarez has netted only once in six appearances this term for Atleti, while Griezmann is yet to score in three games since his deadline day move from Barcelona.

"I have full confidence in all my players. I am aware that Luis was the last one to join the team alongside [Angel] Correa, [Kieran] Trippier and [Ramon] Lodi," Simeone said.

"They are the last ones who joined us in the pre-season. Then, in the international break, when he was getting fully fit, he had to stop following some physical issues.

"Now it is normal that it is taking some time for him to get fit but he eventually will, as he is a very important player for us."

On Griezmann, Simeone added: "I have full confidence in Antoine. He is a very important player for our team and all I had to tell him about is what I saw from his performances and which aspects I want him to improve on, and I have already told him this."

Atletico's chances of beating Bilbao on Saturday were not helped by Joao Felix's sending off, with the Portuguese forward dismissed after a second bookable offence for dissent.

In the wake of the game, Simeone downplayed Joao Felix's actions but he added on Monday that the side need to do better, having received 10 yellow cards in five games for complaining to referees.

"No, we must improve on that aspect, you just mentioned," he said. "I have no doubts we will do that.

"We really respect the Referee's Committee and yes, sometimes you can talk with them [in the games], but we are aiming to reduce those numbers because they are not good from us."

Atletico will take on Getafe away from home in LaLiga on Tuesday.

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    Luis Suarez scored twice in the second half to help champions Atletico Madrid come from behind to earn a 2-2 draw against Real Sociedad at the Wanda Metropolitano.

    Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak will feel he could have done better for both Sociedad goals as Alexander Sorloth finished off a slick, one-touch move to give La Real an early lead before Alexander Isak extended their advantage with a free-kick into the bottom-right corner shortly after the break.

    Suarez gave Diego Simeone's men a lifeline with a header, however, and hauled his team back on level terms by winning and then converting a penalty.

    The draw means Sociedad return to the top of LaLiga having been briefly usurped by Real Madrid, who trail by a point but have the benefit of a game in hand. Atletico are up to fourth.

    Just seven minutes in, Sorloth added the finishing touch to a lightning-quick Sociedad attack after the ball was won in midfield, prodding past a hesitant Oblak, who came off his line too late.

    The goalscorer then linked up neatly with David Silva, playing a one-two with the veteran midfielder as the latter tested Oblak with a sharp effort from a tight angle on the right, with Suarez heading wastefully at Alex Remiro shortly after for Atletico.

    Isak, having set up the opener, doubled La Real's lead two minutes into the second half as Oblak could not keep out his low free-kick despite getting a hand to the shot.

    Suarez pulled one back just after the hour mark, though, finding space in the box to deftly nod Joao Felix's left-wing cross past Remiro before drawing a penalty from Mikel Merino - awarded after a VAR check - which he converted confidently, sending Remiro the wrong way to salvage a point for his side.

  • Busquets: Barcelona didn't deserve to lose El Clasico Busquets: Barcelona didn't deserve to lose El Clasico

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    David Alaba and Lucas Vazquez gave Madrid a 2-0 lead before Sergio Aguero grabbed a late consolation for Barca deep into added time.

    The defeat was Barca's fourth consecutive Clasico defeat across all competitions - their longest losing run in the fixture since seven losses in a row between April 1962 and February 1965.

    Busquets, 33, felt that the Blaugrana should not have ended up on the losing side, but were undone by conceding the first goal.

    "They got it right in the first part and we didn't," Busquets said to Barca TV post-match. "We knew they were going to let us have the ball but they had speed with Rodrigo and Vinicius.

    "In a team with these characteristics, when you lose the ball it is difficult to recover. And they have scored a goal in a kick, not in a play. That changes the game completely. I don't think we deserved to lose, but that's football.

    "When there are games of these characteristics, the one who scores first has the advantage. In the second half, we had possession and control, but we had not made clear chances."

    Busquets refused to blame the referee for the result and insisted that Barca remain positive despite being five points behind the top three.

    "Yes, I have seen [the controversial incidents], but it does not matter," Busquets continued. "The referee has been good in general lines and I am not going to respond to the controversies.

    "A small gap [in the table] is opening but I think we are growing little by little. Now we are going to recover Ousmane who will give us things in attack. We have to continue."

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    "It depended on a very clear chance to have 1-0 and instead, they scored 0-1, then it was complicated because they defended the result and we knew that is very dangerous.

    "The crowd was phenomenal until the last second, we tried but we didn't get the result we wanted. We were good in the first half. We had a lot of ball possession."

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    In three games against Barca for Bayern Munich, Alaba enjoyed a 100 per cent win record.

    Bayern scored 15 goals and conceded just two across those matches, eight of those coming in Die Roten's incredible Champions League quarter-final win of 2020.

    And the Austria international remains unbeaten versus the Blaugrana, his stunning left-foot finish helping settle a game in which Barca misfired in their first Clasico since Lionel Messi's departure and Madrid's brightest young talent rose to the occasion.

     

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    Alaba's goal, his first since joining Madrid, was one worthy of winning a fixture of such magnitude. Having won the ball from Memphis Depay on the edge of his own box, he surged forward before finding Vinicius Junior on the left flank.

    The former Bayern star initially wanted the return pass but Vinicius eschewed that option, instead playing a superb ball to Rodrygo Goes in the centre.

    Rodrygo's pass to find Alaba continuing his charge was inch-perfect, only bettered by the quality of a blistering finish from just inside the area.

    Barca struggled to deal with Madrid's threat down the left flank throughout, Vinicius taking the chance to emerge as the star of a Clasico absent its departed modern-day leading man.

     

    Vinicius shines in the spotlight

    Vinicius went into the fixture having scored seven goals and provided the assist for three in all competitions. He did not add to either of those tallies but his influence across the Brazilian's 87 minutes on the pitch was obvious,

    Ensuring Sergino Dest endured a difficult afternoon at both ends of the pitch, Vinicius attempted a game-high eight dribbles, four of which were successful.

    No player on the field participated in (20) or won more duels (10) as Vinicius excelled at putting Barca under pressure.

    Only Depay (six) and Ansu Fati (seven) had more touches in the opposition box, yet Barca's inability to make the most of those touches was telling.

    Barca bereft of attacking inspiration

    Alaba's shot that gave Madrid the lead had an Expected Goals (xG) value of 0.08, reflecting the difficulty he should have had in beating Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

    It came seven minutes after Dest had blazed high over the crossbar with the goal seemingly at his mercy from close range. Barca did not have a chance as presentable until Sergio Aguero scored with a point-blank effort from effectively the final kick of the game after Lucas Vazquez had put it to bed with Madrid's second goal.

     

    Barca finished with 12 shots but only two on target. Madrid hit the target with five of their 10 efforts. Nine of Barca's shots came from inside the box but they ended a frustrating encounter with only two 'big chances' compared to three for Los Blancos.

    Those numbers are reflective of a game in which, without Messi there to stretch Madrid's shape, Carlo Ancelotti's men succeeded in staying deep and compact and hitting Barca on the counter, which they twice did to devastating effect.

    When Barca got into the final third, the lack of creativity and threat in contrast to Madrid was startling.

    Ronald Koeman could do nothing to prevent Messi from leaving under the financial pressures faced by Barca and he certainly cannot be blamed for a howitzer of a strike from Alaba that tilted matters in Madrid's favour.

    Yet there will surely be questions asked as to how a man who played under Johan Cruyff at Barca can oversee a team that, at least on Sunday, was so desperately short of the attacking flair that has for so long defined this famous club.

    The final score may have looked tight but, in the post-Messi era, the gap between Barca and their arch-rivals is a chasm.

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