Antoine Griezmann is hoping to see out the remainder of his career with Atletico Madrid after conceding that his spell with Barcelona did not pan out as he had hoped.

The France international re-joined Atletico in August on an initial loan with an obligation to buy after spending just two years at Camp Nou.

Barcelona spent €120million to sign Griezmann from LaLiga rivals Atleti in 2019, but the 30-year-old never managed to recapture his best form in Catalonia. 

He made 102 appearances for Barca in all competitions – six more than any other player during his time at the club – and was directly involved in 51 goals.

Only Lionel Messi (106), who himself departed for Paris Saint-Germain in the last transfer window, scored and assisted more goals for Barca over that period.

However, it was at Atletico where Griezmann had the most prolific spell of his career when scoring 133 goals in 257 games between 2014 and 2019.

The Real Sociedad academy product has scored eight goals and assisted two more in 19 games since returning to the Wanda Metropolitano – no Atleti player has been involved in more goals.

Back playing where he feels most comfortable, Griezmann sees no reason to move away from the Spanish capital for a second time.

"The truth is that I performed well at Real Sociedad, then I grew athletically and also privately at Atleti, with my wife, with my children... That helps you be more relaxed and enjoy everything," he told Transfermarkt. 

"Then I went to Barcelona. Because of the circumstances, things didn't go as well as I had hoped. That's why I wanted to come back, to play for Cholo [Diego Simeone] and Atleti again. 

"That's what I wanted the most, and the truth is that I'm really enjoying it here and I hope I can continue like this.

"I hope Atleti want me as long as I can keep up with the pace of the games and the demanded level, and that we can write another beautiful story."

 

Griezmann has been linked with an array of European heavyweights in the past, including Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, but he has not considered a move to Germany.

"I've never thought about it, because since my time at Real Sociedad I've always felt comfortable where I was, and in the end, I feel most comfortable and happy here at Atleti now," he said. "I don't want to move again."

This week marks 10 years since Simeone took charge of his first Atletico match and no player has scored more goals under the Argentinian coach.

Indeed, Griezmann's 141 goals is the fourth-most in Atleti history and the forward credits Simeone with getting the most out of him.

Asked which of the coaches he has worked under has impressed him most, Griezmann said: "I would say it's Cholo. I think he's the coach who knows me best. 

"I have an incredible relationship with him, and also on a sporting level he has always fought with the best, in the Spanish league or in Europe. He has taken the club to the highest level possible."

Diego Simeone is keeping his fingers crossed that Antoine Griezmann's injury is not too serious after the striker hobbled off in Thursday's 5-0 Copa del Rey win over Rayo Majadahonda.

The France international – who scored his side's fourth after being introduced as a substitute – sustained a thigh injury in last month's derby defeat to Real Madrid before testing positive for COVID-19 last week.

Simeone did not reveal the nature of Griezmann's injury but said he hopes the France international, who left the pitch visibly upset, is not sidelined for long.

"The doctors will inform better than me," he told a media conference. "He is a very important player for us and it is a shame that he was injured again.

"We hope he does not have much time out."

Simeone fielded a strong starting XI for the game, which was played at the Wanda Metropolitano despite Majadahonda being drawn as the home team, and they never looked like they would suffer an upset after Matheus Cunha's early opener.

Renan Lodi and Luis Suarez made it three before the interval, while Griezmann and fellow substitute Joao Felix rounded off the scoring in the second half.

After scoring against Granada in LaLiga before the mid-season break, Joao Felix has now scored in consecutive away games in all competitions for just the second time ever after doing so against Real Mallorca and Lokomotiv Moscow in October 2019.

Simeone was full of praise for the Portugal international and wants to see more of the same from him in the coming weeks.

"It was an extraordinary performance in the second half," the Atleti boss added.

"He has come out with great enthusiasm and everything he has tried has turned out well for him. I'm very happy for him and I'm sure it will be good for us if he continues at this level."

After four defeats in a row before the mid-season break, Atleti have started 2022 with back-to-back wins.

Simeone has been pleased with his side's attitude since their return to action and he does not want them to let up.

"The side has a lot of desire to do things well," he said. "The players have great intensity from minute one to get out of the moment of difficulty that the team was going through.

"Achieving consistency in the league is the most difficult thing and it is what we are trying to do."

Atleti are next in action on Sunday when they visit Villarreal in LaLiga.

Atletico Madrid cruised into the last 16 of the Copa del Rey thanks to a 5-0 rout of Rayo Majadahonda on Thursday.

Diego Simeone fielded a strong starting XI for the game, which was played at the Wanda Metropolitano despite Majadahonda being drawn as the home team, and they never looked like they would suffer an upset after Matheus Cunha's early opener.

Renan Lodi and Luis Suarez then made it three before the interval as the Colchoneros threatened to run riot.

Substitute Griezmann – who later hobbled off with an injury – added a fourth after a fine move, before Joao Felix wrapped up the scoring with a sumptuous finish. 

Atleti's relentless early pressure told after 17 minutes when Matheus Cunha fired home after Yannick Carrasco had blocked an attempted clearance.

Lodi then opened his account for the season nine minutes later, superbly firing into Alvaro Fernandez's top-left corner from 15 yards after being picked out by Thomas Lemar.

Suarez, who had earlier been denied by Fernandez, added a third four minutes before the interval, the Uruguay international slotting home Marcos Llorente's low cross from 12 yards.

Simeone's men started the second half at a sluggish pace, but they added a fourth in the 67th minute when Griezmann slammed the ball into the roof of Fernandez's roof after combining superbly with fellow substitute Angel Correa. 

Joao Felix added further gloss to the scoreline with 11 minutes remaining, cutting in from the left and whipping the ball into the top corner. 


What does it mean? Griezmann injury mars routine win

Given the strength of Simeone's starting XI it was little surprise to see Atleti blow their less illustrious opponents away with consummate ease.

The only blot on their copybook was the injury to Griezmann, who was visibly upset as he walked down the tunnel.

Suarez endures

Suarez's typically composed finish was his first Copa del Rey goal for Atleti and his 20th overall. Since his arrival in Spain ahead of the 2014-15 season, only Lionel Messi (27) has scored more goals in the competition.

Giralt's game cut short

Majadahonda goalkeeper Gorka Giralt was cruelly denied the chance to test himself against some of Spanish football's biggest names after suffering a hand injury inside the first minute. The 26-year-old cut a despondent figure as he walked off the pitch to be replaced by Fernandez.

What's next?

Fourth-placed Atleti return to LaLiga action on Sunday when they visit Villarreal, who sit four places and four points beneath them.

Atletico Madrid confirmed Antoine Griezmann has been granted permission from health authorities to return to training.

Griezmann was among five to test positive for COVID-19 on December 30 along with coach Diego Simeone, Koke, Hector Herrera and Joao Felix.

All of them went into immediate isolation, with only Simeone being able to leave quarantine in time for Sunday's 2-0 LaLiga win over Rayo Vallecano.

But Griezmann has been cleared to return to the training pitch as well after his latest test came back negative, making his a case of "resolved infection".

An Atletico statement read: "Antoine Griezmann has received clearance from LaLiga to return to training.

"The French player represents a case of resolved infection that meets the conditions set by the Strategy for Early Detection, Surveillance and Control of COVID-19 of the Ministry of Health, dated December 19, 2021."

As such, Griezmann could potentially feature against Rayo Majadahonda in the Copa del Rey on Thursday.

Otherwise, he will hope to be involved away to Villarreal on Sunday.

Diego Simeone and Antoine Griezmann are among five new positive cases of coronavirus at Atletico Madrid.

Midfielders Koke and Hector Herrera and Portugal star Joao Felix also returned positive results in the club's latest round of testing.

The Spanish champions said all five are asymptomatic and isolating at home.

COVID-19 infections have been recorded at several LaLiga clubs in recent days, with Barcelona having had 10 positive tests this week alone.

On Wednesday, Real Madrid confirmed Thibaut Courtois, Eduardo Camavinga, Federico Valverde and Vinicius Junior had all tested positive for the virus, while Sevilla recorded five positives during the short mid-season break in Spain.

Valencia face Espanyol on Friday before most sides return to action on Sunday, with Atletico taking on high-flying neighbours Rayo Vallecano at the Wanda Metropolitano.

December 23 marks the 10th anniversary of Diego Simeone's appointment as the head coach of Atletico Madrid.

The Argentine's return to his old club altered the modern history of LaLiga, as Atleti firmly established a 'big three' in Spain alongside Real Madrid and Barcelona while making waves in Europe.

While their style of play has not always courted admirers, Simeone's Atletico have won eight trophies – including two LaLiga titles and two Europa Leagues – and twice reached the Champions League final, all on a budget that has never matched that of their two biggest rivals.

In his decade in the capital, Simeone has also worked through a sizeable turnover of players, some of whom have established themselves as modern greats at the club.

Here, Stats Perform attempts to select a best XI from Cholo's time in charge...

Jan Oblak

Replacing Thibaut Courtois was no easy task, but signing Jan Oblak for €16million has proven to be an outstanding piece of business.

An invaluable part of Atletico's imperious rearguard, Oblak set a record for the fewest matches needed to record 100 clean sheets in LaLiga last July (182), helping his side to the league title – one of four trophies in his time at the club.

Oblak has won the Zamora Trophy – given to the keeper with the best goals-against-per-game ratio – in four of the past five seasons.

Juanfran

He might have developed at Real Madrid, but Juanfran became one of Atleti's most dependable and beloved players under Simeone.

A winger as a younger player, Juanfran was a strong attacking outlet as well as being reliable in defence at a time when Atleti's biggest rivals boasted Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at their peak. It was cruel that he should miss a penalty in the Champions League final shoot-out defeat to Madrid in 2016.

Although he won seven trophies before leaving for Sao Paulo in 2019, Juanfran told supporters at his farewell reception: "You singing my name was better than winning titles."

Diego Godin

Signed the year before Simeone's arrival, Godin became the rock on which Atleti's redoubtable defence was built, playing 389 games before departing at the end of 2018-19 – a record for a foreign player at the club.

A winner of eight trophies under Simeone, the Uruguay centre-back was twice included on the Ballon d'Or shortlist as he formed a formidable partnership with Miranda and later compatriot Jose Gimenez. There are some who consider Godin, who became captain, to be the greatest defender ever to play for the club.

There are suggestions he could return to the Wanda Metropolitano should he leave Cagliari in the coming weeks.

Jose Gimenez

Gimenez had to wait for his chance, linking up with Atletico for the title-winning 2013-14 season as an 18-year-old and finding Miranda blocking his path. However, the veteran soon moved on to Inter and was scarcely missed.

Gimenez, who remains at Atleti and is still only 26, had the benefit of playing alongside Godin at international level, quickly forging a strong partnership after his 2013 Uruguay debut. At international level, he may well be the man to pass his colleague's record caps haul.

Simeone's latest stalwart has already continued his fine performances at club level beyond Godin's career, named as one of four captains immediately after the older man's departure. Only hamstring injuries have slowed Gimenez to this point, but he has plenty of time left to add to his legacy.

Filipe Luis

Atletico's outstanding 2013-14 season attracted the attention of some of Europe's biggest clubs – or at least one of them. Chelsea recalled Courtois and returned to sign two more title-winning stars: Filipe Luis and Diego Costa.

Both men eventually returned to Simeone's ranks, but Filipe Luis' Premier League move was particularly underwhelming. Jose Mourinho's Stamford Bridge rebuild found room for one of Europe's outstanding full-backs only as a back-up, with the Brazil international restricted to 939 league minutes – merely the 16th-most in that triumphant Chelsea side.

Atleti were only too happy to welcome Filipe Luis back the following year, installing him again as a regular in Simeone's sturdy defence.

Koke

Koke made his Atletico debut more than two years prior to Simeone's appointment and is still at the club as captain, aged only 29. He may even break Adelardo Rodriguez's club appearance record of 551 before the end of the season, now 30 short.

Under Simeone alone, Koke has turned out on 486 occasions, by far the most of any Atleti player, as he has had a big hand in the coach's various successes.

The midfielder emerged too late to contribute to Spain's international titles between 2008 and 2012 but was instead identified as Xavi's successor by the man himself. "An extraordinary footballer," according to a man who knows a thing or two about such players, Koke has consistently delivered at club level.

Gabi

A Marca column this year identified two potential successors to Simeone, two former players who are "pure Atletico Madrid". Fernando Torres is one; Gabi is the other.

Madrid-born Gabi epitomised Simeone's side with his dogged approach, having been selected as captain by the coach he played alongside in his first spell at the club.

"We weren't the best technically, but we were the best in terms of our belief," Gabi reflected of an Atleti stint that included six major honours – a description that fits both iconic player and team.

Marcos Llorente

Probably the most surprising choice in this XI, Llorente has undoubtedly proven himself an invaluable asset to Simeone since his move across the city in 2019.

Nominally a holding midfielder, the Spain international has been deployed to great effect in a more attacking role, not least in scoring twice at Anfield to knock Liverpool out of the 2019-20 Champions League.

Llorente has also filled in at full-back, that versatility earning him a starting spot on the right-hand side of Luis Enrique's line-up at Euro 2020. There are few players more accomplished at adopting different roles in Simeone's demanding set-up.

Antoine Griezmann

His 'Decision' about staying at Atletico in 2018 – and then promptly signing for Barcelona anyway a year later – upset plenty of Atletico fans, but there is little doubt about Griezmann's contribution to Simeone's success.

Griezmann has scored 140 goals and provided 148 assists for Atletico; since Simeone took charge, the next highest on the list for direct goal involvements is Koke on 137. And Griezmann was not even an Atletico player for the first two and a half years of the Cholo era.

The France international has twice come third in the Ballon d'Or standings while playing for Atleti, in 2016 and then 2018. Had it not been for a costly penalty miss in the Champions League final five years ago, he could well have got his hands on the prize.

Diego Costa

Fiery and formidable, Costa was the archetypal Simeone striker, and a player at the heart of one of the club's greatest modern seasons.

Initially a back-up to Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan, and having battled a knee injury in 2011, Costa became an established player in the side in 2012-13, scoring in the Copa del Rey final win over Real Madrid.

Then, in 2013-14, he scored 27 LaLiga goals as Atleti claimed an incredible title triumph, and a further eight in nine games to propel them to the Champions League final. Simeone's attempt to rush him back from a hamstring injury for that game backfired, though: he lasted eight minutes of the match, which Atleti lost 4-1 after extra time.

Radamel Falcao

Described by Marca in 2012 as "the best signing of the 21st century", Radamel Falcao enjoyed two explosive seasons in Madrid as he cemented his reputation as the world's most feared number nine.

A club-record €40m signing in August 2011, the Colombia striker scored 36 goals in his debut season, including 12 in Atleti's victorious Europa League run – a competition he won the season before with Porto.

He started 2012-13 with consecutive hat-tricks, including against Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup, ending the season with 34 goals in all competitions. He also set up Diego Costa to score as Atleti beat Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final.

Antoine Griezmann faces a spell on the sidelines after suffering a thigh injury in Atletico Madrid's derby defeat to Real Madrid on Sunday.

Griezmann had to be withdrawn at half-time in Atleti's 2-0 LaLiga loss at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The France international underwent an MRI scan and discovered he sustained a muscle injury to his right thigh.

Griezmann will seemingly miss the trip to Sevilla on Saturday and is also set to sit out the visit to Granada next Wednesday.

The 30-year-old has scored seven goals in 18 games since re-joining the Spanish champions from Barcelona on transfer deadline day.

Diego Simeone's side are fourth in the table following back-to-back LaLiga defeats, 13 points behind leaders Los Blancos.

Griezmann scored in a 3-1 win at Porto last week that sealed Atleti's place in the last 16 of the Champions League, setting up a tie against Manchester United.

Antoine Griezmann, Angel Correa and Rodrigo de Paul scored and three players were sent off as Atletico Madrid earned a place in the last 16 of the Champions League after a riotous 3-1 victory over Porto.

Following a goalless first half, Griezmann arrived at the far post after the break to divert in a corner and give Atletico the edge in a tight contest.

Yannick Carrasco lost his cool in the 67th minute, being sent off after grabbing Otavio's head, before Porto's Wendell was shown a straight red card just five minutes later for an elbow, making it a 10-a-side game. Unused Porto substitute Marchesin also saw red amid chaotic scenes.

Three goals were then scored from the 90th minute onwards, with Correa racing away to slot into the bottom corner and De Paul hammering in before Sergio Oliveira netted a consolation from the spot.

The first big chance of the game fell Atletico's way in the 22nd minute as Carrasco's low ball across the face of goal found Thomas Lemar, but Costa made the save at point-blank range and Griezmann could not connect with the loose ball with the goal gaping. The Porto goalkeeper then denied Marcos Llorente from a tight angle.

The visitors broke the deadlock in the 56th minute as Lemar's corner was flicked on by Geoffrey Kondogbia and turned in at the back post by Griezmann to give Diego Simeone's men a vital advantage.

Carrasco refused to give the ball back for a Porto throw-in before lashing out at Otavio as the Porto midfielder attempted to grab it from him, the Belgian earning himself a straight red card.

Ugly scenes ensued as both camps clashed, and Porto substitute Wendell suffered the same fate as Carrasco shortly after as he elbowed Angel Correa in the throat. Marchesin appeared to be red-carded for speaking out of turn from the sidelines.

Correa broke away in the 90th minute to double Atletico's advantage with a low finish into the bottom-left corner before De Paul smashed in the rebound after Griezmann's shot was saved two minutes later.

Porto pulled one back deep into stoppage time as Oliveira rifled a penalty past Jan Oblak, but Atletico had done enough to make it to the knockout stage. Porto must settle for the Europa League.

Diego Simeone believes Antoine Griezmann is starting to show the quality that Atletico Madrid re-signed him for.

Griezmann returned Atleti in a late loan deal from Barcelona at the end of August, just two years after the France forward swapped the Wanda Metropolitano for Camp Nou.

The World Cup winner scored 20 goals across all competitions for Barca last season, having initially struggled in his first campaign at the club.

Only Lionel Messi scored more for the Blaugrana in 2020-21, with Griezmann's tally just one short of Atleti's top scorer Luis Suarez (21).

Griezmann hardly hit the ground running on his return to Atleti, however. He had to wait until the end of September for his first goal, as he scored in a 2-1 win over Milan in the Champions League, with a double following against Liverpool in October before he was then sent off.

But he has now scored in two of his past three LaLiga appearances, with his shot conversion rate of 25 per cent close to Suarez's 25.81, the Uruguay forward having netted three goals more than his team-mate.

 

On Friday, Atleti received news Griezmann's two-game ban in the Champions League had been reduced to one match, meaning he will be able to feature against Milan next week.

First up for Atleti is Saturday's league meeting with Osasuna, however, and Simeone is thrilled with Griezmann's recent displays.

"Comparisons are always bad," Simeone told a news conference when asked how the Griezmann of 2021 matched up with the player who left Atleti in 2019.

"That one was younger, this one has more experience, more national team matches, with Barcelona, and little by little, he is finding the best version of himself.

"We need him the same as in the games against Real Betis and Valencia [before the international break]. That is the footballer we went to find, the one that the people want and the team needs."

Another player linked with a return to Atleti has been Diego Godin. The veteran centre-back is reportedly set to be out of contract with Serie A club Cagliari in January and Mundo Deportivo claims he wishes to move back to Atleti, where he became a club great between 2010 and 2019.

"I understand the question – you know what I love Godin for everything he has given us for all these years – but the only thing that interests me now is Osasuna," Simeone said when asked if Godin could be an option.

Hugo Duro scored twice in second-half stoppage time as Atletico Madrid threw away a two-goal lead in a remarkable 3-3 draw away to Valencia on Sunday.

Atletico looked to be well on track to bouncing back from a disappointing midweek defeat to Liverpool but Valencia showed commendable spirit to peg them back right at the end.

The visitors had dominated the first half and led through Luis Suarez's sublime goal, only for Valencia to improve after the break and level through Stefan Savic's own goal.

A quick-fire double from Atletico, courtesy of Antoine Griezmann and Sime Vrsaljko, looked as though it would be enough for the champions, only for Valencia substitute Duro to clinch a late brace that incredibly rescued a point.

Antoine Griezmann produced his best performance of the season to thrill Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone, yet the LaLiga champions must get by without his threat at Liverpool on Wednesday.

Back at Atletico for a second spell after a misfiring stint at Barcelona, there was a touch of vintage Griezmann about his display in Sunday's 3-0 home win over Real Betis.

Since making his LaLiga debut with Real Sociedad against Villarreal on August 29 in 2010, only four players have scored more LaLiga goals than Griezmann's haul of 157 in 403 games. Those players are a special group: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Luis Suarez.

Some 95 of those goals have come in 188 games for Atletico, at a rate of one every 156.29 minutes, and there are promising signs that Griezmann is rediscovering his old confidence with the Rojiblancos.

Simeone watched the Frenchman create four chances against Betis, the joint most on the team, alongside Angel Correa and Yannick Carrasco. That total did not only beat his previous highest number in a game this season, but it doubled his entire season's LaLiga tally.

Two of the chances he created were defined by Opta as big chances, meaning that the person on the end of the chance would have reasonably been expected to score. That was not how it turned out, with neither resulting in a goal, but Simeone was suitably impressed. Luis Suarez and Jose Gimenez were among those who could not put away chances made for them by Griezmann.

"Looking at today's game, we found the usual Griezmann," Simeone said. "Working, insisting, looking for scoring chances, getting into positions, having chances to score. That's the way we were looking for him to be when we thought of him."

Three of Griezmann's four goals since rejoining Atletico in August have come in the Champions League, with his double against Liverpool last time out in the competition not enough for Simeone's side as they slipped to a 3-2 home defeat. Griezmann's red card in the second half of that game means he will not be involved at Anfield.

Griezmann had 65 touches against Betis, the most he has had for Atletico in a game during this second spell, with this being his 11th appearance for the club since leaving Camp Nou.

These are all promising signs for a player who appeared to have lost his way at Barcelona, and Liverpool will surely be relieved they will not encounter his threat in Wednesday's game.

Atletico sit a precarious second in Group B, five points adrift of Liverpool and level on points with Porto, who travel to face Milan.

Simeone, who watched from the stands against Betis after his dismissal in Atletico's previous game against Levante, can now begin to think about another clash with Jurgen Klopp's team.

"We were busy in LaLiga," the head coach said on Sunday evening. "We needed to win again to be up there with the contenders, and starting tomorrow another competition begins for which we will start to prepare tonight or tomorrow morning."

Barcelona's Gerard Pique is among those to have shown his support to A-League player Josh Cavallo, who has come out as the first openly gay top-flight footballer in the world.

Adelaide United defender Cavallo made the announcement in a video and open letter on social media on Wednesday.

The news is a historic moment for sporting community and one Cavallo hopes will help others find the courage to follow in his steps.

"I want to help change this," he said. "I want to show that everyone is welcome in the game of football and deserves the right to be their authentic self.

"It is astonishing to know that there are currently no gay professional footballers who are out and actively playing, not only in Australia, but around the world. 

"Hopefully this will change in the near future."

Cavallo's announcement was met with widespread supporting, with Pique praising the 21-year-old for making the public announcement.

"I don't have the pleasure to know you personally, but I want to thank you for this step that you take," Pique posted on Twitter. 

"The world of football is far behind and you are helping us move forward."

Pique's former Barca team-mate and current Atletico Madrid loanee Antoine Griezmann said: "Proud of you @JoshuaCavallo".

Barca were one of a number of teams to commend Cavallo, posting: "THANK YOU, @JoshuaCavallo for taking a huge step forward! 

"Your courage contributes to normalizing diversity in the world of sports."

Premier League side Arsenal tweeted: "Thank you @JoshuaCavallo for your strength and bravery...

"You are an inspiration to millions. Everyone deserves the right to be themselves."

Several other top-flight players have previously come out as gay once their professional playing careers were over, including former Aston Villa player Thomas Hitzlsperger.

Former Newcastle Jets player Andy Brennan came out while playing in a lower tier and is now plying his trade for semi-professional side Hume City.

Mohamed Salah made history by scoring in a ninth successive match for Liverpool to earn the Reds a dramatic 3-2 win over Atletico Madrid, who had two-goal Antoine Griezmann sent off and a late penalty contentiously overturned.

In-form forward Salah opened the scoring inside eight minutes in Tuesday's breathless Champions League tie before Naby Keita volleyed in a second five minutes later as the visitors took complete control at Wanda Metropolitano.

That was the earliest Atletico had gone two goals down in a Champions League match, though they hit back before half-time through Griezmann's double.

Griezmann was sent off early in the second half for a high boot on Roberto Firmino and Liverpool made the man advantage count when Salah scored a second of his own from the penalty spot.

Liverpool, who were given a late reprieve when a penalty awarded for Diogo Jota's shove on Jose Gimenez was overruled following a check of the pitchside monitor, now hold a five-point lead over Atletico and Porto at the top of Group B.

At 29 years and 130 days, Liverpool fielded their oldest starting line-up in a match since September 1953 and their experience showed in a fast start that saw them open the scoring early on.

Salah's left-footed shot from outside the box took a deflection on its way past Jan Oblak and was later credited to the Egypt forward after some initial confusion over who the final touch came off.

Atleti continued to be pushed back and they found themselves two goals behind soon after when Felipe's poor defensive header fell nicely for Keita to thump home with a dipping first-time shot from 18 yards.

But the home side soon settled and were back in the game thanks to a slight touch from Griezmann to help Koke's shot into the bottom-left corner, the goal allowed to stand after a lengthy VAR check for a possible offside in the build-up.

Griezmann was then denied by Alisson when played clean through on goal, but the France international made amends by taking Joao Felix's pass in his stride and coolly slotting past the Liverpool goalkeeper.

Alisson and Oblak continued to be called into action in a frantic end-to-end match, but momentum shifted back in Liverpool's favour with 52 minutes played with Griezmann's straight red card.

Jurgen Klopp's side made a spell of pressure count 12 minutes from time as Mario Hermoso barged into Jota inside the box and Salah, who missed a penalty against Milan in Liverpool's opening group match, buried the spot-kick.

There was still time for more drama in the Spanish capital, with referee Daniel Siebert pointing to the spot for Jota's challenge on Gimenez, but the decision was controversially overturned before substitute Luis Suarez could step up and take the penalty.

Atletico Madrid's "world class" strike force of Antoine Griezmann, Luis Suarez, Angel Correa and Joao Felix will help the club to finish above Real Madrid, Barcelona and any other challengers in the LaLiga title race.

That is the view of ex-Valencia, Celta Vigo, Villarreal and Real Zaragoza defender Jose Enrique, who told Stats Perform he also expects Atleti to put up a fight for the Champions League under "annoying" boss Diego Simeone.

The reigning Spanish champions are level on points with city rivals Madrid at LaLiga's summit after eight matches thanks to a 2-0 win over Barcelona – who are five points worse off in ninth with a game in hand – prior to the international break.

Atleti have been far from perfect at the start of their title defence, though, having dropped points against Villarreal, Athletic Bilbao and Deportivo Alaves this term, losing 1-0 to the latter in the shock of the season so far.

Simeone's side have also had to ride their luck at times, with three of their 11 league goals coming in added time and another two arriving in the 78th and 79th minute.

Suarez leads the way with four goals, including a strike against former side Barca two weeks ago, while Correa has three to his name.

With that goal against Barca, the Uruguay international completed the set by scoring against all 31 teams that he has faced in the Spanish top flight.

 

Joao Felix has yet to get off the mark for the LaLiga campaign, though, and Griezmann is also goalless in the league since rejoining from Barcelona at the end of the most recent transfer window.

Yet while Madrid have double the number of goals as Atleti, Jose Enrique rates Los Rojiblancos' attack as the best around and cannot see past them finishing top for a third time in nine seasons this time around.

"I think it will be Atletico," the Spaniard, who also spent eight years in the Premier League with Newcastle United and Liverpool, said when asked who he expects to win the title.

"I know there been some games where they had to struggle in terms of scoring, with 90-something minute winners or whatever. 

"But what they have in the players they have is just incredible. You see the strength of the squad they have. They just signed Griezmann and they have Suarez, Joao Felix, Correa. 

"You talk about those four and for me that could be in any team in the world, and the four of them are strikers.

"Correa can play out on the wing sometimes, Joao Felix as well. But you're talking about four world-class strikers in my opinion. So, for me they are amazing. 

"It is true that that defensively, maybe there's a little bit more. But this is a team that I really believe is going to win the league this year.

"In the Champions League they're going to be annoying again, because Simeone is very, very annoying, always."

After the 2018 World Cup final, when highlights of France's thrilling 4-2 win were played back at Luzhniki Stadium, one man in particular was enraptured.

Antoine Griezmann stood on the pitch, ignoring the celebrations that surrounded him, his gaze fixed upwards at the big screen beneath the storm-laden sky.

His hands to his mouth, eyes watering, smile beaming, the face of the man bore an expression of boyish disbelief: I was just man of the match in the World Cup final. And we won.

It's unlikely anything in Griezmann's career will ever top that victory over Croatia in the Russian capital. Win or lose, Sunday's Nations League final against Spain almost certainly won't. Still, it will be another special occasion for the Atletico Madrid forward, who is set to win his 100th cap against the national team of his adoptive country.

It also offers a chance to reflect on Griezmann's international career, which began only seven years ago. In the Didier Deschamps era, there has been no more important player.

 

Didier's favourite

Reaching a century of international games is commendable for any player – only eight men have ever achieved it for France before. What makes Griezmann unique is that all of his caps have come under the same coach.

It was Deschamps who handed Griezmann his debut on March 5, 2014 against the Netherlands, starting the forward wide on the left of a front three. Griezmann has since been used across the forward line in changing systems, but his presence in Deschamps' set-up has been constant: he has only missed four France games since his first appearance and has played in 56 matches in a row for Les Bleus, the longest such streak in their history.

 

Under Deschamps, only Olivier Giroud (101) has played more often than Griezmann, while only goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris has started more games (96 compared with Griezmann's 84) or played more minutes (8,700 to Griezmann's 7,300).

When he scored his second in the 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Finland in September, Griezmann moved level with Michel Platini on 41 international goals. Only Giroud (46) and Thierry Henry (51) have managed more in the national team's history. Given his rate of just over five international goals per year, the outright record looks well within Griezmann's reach, even if he insists it is not an "obsession" to get it.

Another record beckons in 2022: should France reach the semi-finals in Qatar, Griezmann could surpass Henry and Fabien Barthez (both on 17) for the most appearances for Les Bleus at World Cup finals.

 

Griezi does it on the biggest stage

In the 2018 World Cup final, Griezmann won and took the free-kick from which Mario Mandzukic scored the opening own goal, and he converted the penalty that restored France's lead when Croatia were beginning to take control.

It was a decisive display in the biggest match of the Deschamps era, but the fact Griezmann stepped up for his country when it mattered should not have come as a shock.

In the knockouts in Russia, Griezmann scored in the 4-3 win over Argentina, got a goal and an assist in the quarter-final with Uruguay and crossed for Samuel Umtiti's headed winner against Belgium in the last four. He won the bronze ball as the third-best player at the tournament and the silver boot for finishing as second in the goal standings, two behind England's Harry Kane on six.

 

Two years earlier, he scored twice against the Republic of Ireland, got a goal and two assists against Iceland and two more strikes against Germany in the knockouts of Euro 2016 before France fell at the final hurdle on home soil against Portugal. In both 2016 and 2018, he came third in the Ballon d'Or standings.

Griezmann won the golden boot and was named player of the tournament at Euro 2016. Indeed, in the history of the European Championship finals, only Cristiano Ronaldo (20) and Michel Platini (10) have been directly involved in more goals than the 30-year-old (nine).

 

Antoine-derful

Griezmann scored 22 goals in 74 LaLiga games for Barcelona as he struggled to find his place in the system alongside Lionel Messi under three different coaches. It was a fairly poor return for €120million. Yet for France, regardless of tactics and personnel, he has delivered consistently when it matters.

Since his debut, Griezmann has nine goals and four assists in 16 World Cup qualifying games. No player has managed more, or made more appearances. He also leads the way for chances created (33, 14 more than anyone else), and shots (46, seven more than nearest rival Paul Pogba).

In Euros qualifying, only Giroud matches Griezmann for games (10) and beats him for goals (six), while the Atleti man is again top for assists (seven). In fact, he has created 42 goalscoring chances in those games, which is 28 more than anyone else for France during his international career.

At World Cup finals, no France player has played more matches (12), scored more goals (four) or provided more assists (two) than Griezmann in the Deschamps era. His 17 chances created are, again, the most in that time.

And, at the European Championships... well, you can guess where we're going here. His seven goals and two assists in 11 games is a better return than any other France player since his debut. If you add in four goals and an assist in 11 Nations League matches – again, nobody for France has played as many – then Griezmann stands on 43 direct goal involvements in competitive internationals, which is 15 more than any other player since he made his bow on the senior stage.

 

In Spain, Griezmann went from underrated Real Sociedad talent to Atletico Madrid superstar to Barcelona let-down. For France, he has been Monsieur Dependable for more than seven years.

If he marks his 100th cap with a decisive turn in a Nations League final victory, nobody – among the French, at least – would be surprised.

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