Diego Simeone has confirmed that Luis Suarez will play for Atletico Madrid against Valencia on Saturday, despite a lack of form and apparent recent falling out between the pair.

The Uruguay international is Los Rojiblancos' top scorer in all competitions this season with nine goals, but has only found the net once in his last 11 club matches.

Suarez made his frustration known when he was substituted during last month's 2-1 defeat at Sevilla, appearing to direct expletives towards his manager.

The 34-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season and has been linked with a Premier League reunion with former Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa, but Simeone insisted at a news conference ahead of the weekend's clash at the Wanda Metropolitano that he has spoken to Suarez and intends to play him.

Atletico have been on a poor run of late, winning just one of their last six LaLiga games and being eliminated from both the Supercopa de Espana and Copa del Rey in their last two outings.

"Luis Suarez will play," the Argentine coach confirmed. "I have no doubt that these moments make us stronger, because we have been in difficult moments and very good ones during my ten years at the club [as a coach].

"This moment is something we've never experienced before and it is like life itself, we need to defend ourselves continuously. What you did yesterday doesn't count, it counts what you do today and I love it like this because this is what happens in life itself.

"I've already talked to Luis and with the club. With all the people I've needed to, we've talked already. They know what I think, and I'm [currently] thinking about the match against Valencia.”

 

Suarez has scored 30 goals across all competitions since his arrival at Atletico from Barcelona in September 2020. Karim Benzema (54) and Gerard Moreno (41) are the only players currently based in Spain to have scored more often during that time.

Additionally, only Lionel Messi (231) has more than Suarez's 175 LaLiga goals since the Uruguayan joined Barcelona from Liverpool in July 2014.

Diego Simeone has demanded his players give their all to get Atletico Madrid's season back on track but admitted they are "competing well and have the desire" after being knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Real Sociedad on Wednesday.

Goals in each half from Adnan Januzaj and Alexander Sorloth were enough to consign the Rojiblancos to a 2-0 defeat at Reale Arena, their seventh loss in their last 12 games in all competitions.

It means that it has been four seasons since Atletico reached the quarter-finals of the Copa dey Rey, having not done so since the 2017-18 campaign.

It is the second time in six days that Atletico have been eliminated from a cup competition, having lost 2-1 to Athletic Bilbao in the semi-final of the Supercopa de Espana last week in Saudi Arabia.

Speaking after the game in San Sebastian, Simeone urged his players to rescue their season. They are due to play Manchester United in the last 16 of the Champions League, and sit in fourth place in LaLiga, though a sizeable 16 points behind leaders Real Madrid.

"We must put our heart, our head, and our shoulders in the face of what is happening to us," he insisted. "We need to contribute together starting with the game on Saturday [at home to Valencia].

"It's a shame because the team is competing well and has the desire to get out of this uncomfortable situation.

"We're in a phase wherein, like many say, the dynamic is not good. We need to think about the positives. I'm optimistic and I believe in my players.

"Football is decisive in both penalty boxes and the more decisive you are, the closer you get to winning. Hopefully, we can again find the clean sheets that were once criticised but that now hold more weight. With stability, everything else becomes easier.

"It's a problem of football, of life. Every day is not the same. Last season was magnificent and this one is being very difficult.

"The opportunities are there, we have the league and the Champions League. I will not stay still, that's for sure."

Simeone was also asked about an incident prior to the game at Reale Arena when La Real fans were seen to throw objects at the Atletico bus as it pulled towards the stadium.

"We were on a path surrounded by Real Sociedad fans, who I understand are always there, but they were protected by the people who should have dealt with the situation. Suddenly, there was no protection and everyone saw that."

Diego Simeone has opened up about conversations with Luis Suarez as Atletico Madrid attempt to get the former Barcelona striker back to form.

The Uruguay international is Atletico's top scorer in all competitions this season, albeit with just nine goals from 27 appearances.

The 34-year-old, whose contract at Wanda Metropolitano expires at the end of the campaign, has only found the net once in his last 11 club matches.

Suarez's frustration was evident when he was substituted during last month's defeat at Sevilla, with the former Liverpool striker appearing to direct expletives towards coach Simeone.

With the striker's sharp shooting deserting him and his future uncertain, the Atleti boss said there have been discussions between the pair in recent times.

Ahead of Atletico's Copa del Rey clash with Real Sociedad on Wednesday, Simeone said: "We have spoken with Luis for two months about what I think of him, of how important he is for us.

"What I think of him, he knows it and I didn't speak to him after Sevilla, I have spoken to him for two months."

 

Suarez has scored 30 goals across all competitions since his September 2020 transfer from Barcelona – more than any other Atletico team-mate. Karim Benzema (54) and Gerard Moreno (41) are the only players currently based in Spain to have scored more often during that time.

Additionally, only Messi (231) betters Suarez's tally of 175 LaLiga goals since the Uruguayan joined Barcelona from Liverpool in July 2014.

Diego Simeone believes Atletico Madrid will be held back from achieving their aspirations this season if they cannot address their problems in defending against aerial threats.

Atleti let a lead slip to lose 2-1 to Athletic Bilbao in the semi-final of the Supercopa de Espana in Saudi Arabia on Thursday.

The LaLiga champions looked set to face city rivals Real Madrid in the final at King Fahd Stadium on Sunday after Unai Simon's unfortunate own goal put them in front just after the hour mark.

Yet the holders mounted a great fightback in Riyadh on Thursday, Yeray Alvarez rising to head in a corner from Iker Muniain after 77 minutes.

Teenage substitute Nico Williams won it for Athletic nine minutes from time, finishing clinically with his left foot from inside the penalty area after Simeone's side failed to deal with another corner.

Jose Gimenez's red card for a dangerous challenge on Inigo Martinez added insult to injury for Atleti.

There were elements to the performance that pleased Simeone, but he fired a warning that his side are unlikely to challenge for trophies unless they can solve their issues in the air.

 

"There are things that can't be hidden. The team doesn't have defensive strength in aerial play and that takes away from us the possibility of having better games and better opportunities to be higher up in LaLiga and to stay in this competition," said the Atleti coach.

"This isn't the time to talk much. Everything looks much worse with the result, but there were good things. Joao [Felix] played a good game, [Angel] Correa worked, [Rodrigo] De Paul did well when he came on, [Mario] Hermoso's game was very good, Marcos [Llorente] was able to play for 45 minutes coming in with an overload in his glute, and we have to improve in training, on a day-to-day basis and get what comes to us from that."

Asked if it seemed his team had finally reached a point where they had stopped believing, he replied: "It's an opinion more than a question. I hear that as an opinion.

"We believe in the work we do. We're trying to improve. Since the Rayo [Vallecano] match [a 2-0 win on January 2], I think we've played good games, but we need to improve something very obvious that makes us lose points, [league] positions and stops us being in finals. It is up to us to improve that and increase the aggressiveness in the areas."

Llorente started the game at right wing-back before being replaced by Renan Lodi at half-time, but the pair between them only provided one cross from open play throughout the contest.

It laid bare the concerns Simeone has over that position following the sale of Kieran Trippier to Newcastle United.

While he is happy with the options at his disposal, with Sime Vrsaljko another who can play the role, Simeone said the club were exploring options in the transfer market.

"We have Vrsaljko as a replacement. He can play there. The club is working with what can be done in pursuit of the benefit of the club and of the team," he said.

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone said he was happy to take a point away from the visit to Villarreal after facing "one of the best teams in LaLiga".

Angel Correa struck a sensational opener after 10 minutes, the Argentina international intercepting Daniel Parejo's sloppy pass and firing over Geronimo Rulli from just inside the Villarreal half.

Opta calculated his breathtaking effort to have an expected goal (xG) indicator of just 0.0166 – the lowest for a goal in LaLiga this season.

However, the hosts pulled level before half-time through Pau Torres, shortly after Gerard Moreno had seen a penalty saved by Jan Oblak.

Alberto Moreno put Unai Emery's side ahead after the break but Geoffrey Kondogbia, who was sent off deep into stoppage time after picking up a second yellow card, sealed a point with his first goal for the club in the 67th minute. 

That goal snapped Los Colchoneros' run of three straight LaLiga defeats on the road, and Simeone was pleased with his players' efforts against a strong and spirited Villarreal side. 

"It was a difficult game," he told Movistar. "For me, Villarreal is one of the best teams in LaLiga. They defend well, they are organised at the back and attack very well.

"When [Matheus] Cunha didn't score a second with his chance they grew into the game. They played a good first half and continued that in the second.

"They put themselves ahead but then a different Atletico Madrid appeared. We leave with positives and lots of things to correct.

"We have been fighting and working to improve ourselves. Today we did a lot of good things and we are on a quest to keep improving things."

Marcos Llorente echoed Simeone's sentiments, saying Atleti need to sharpen up if they are to turn draws into wins.

"We always want victory," he said. "But having gone two goals down it was good to see the reaction of the team. It is a point that has been fought for and won. We wanted all three, but we are happy with the reaction of the team.

"We always want more. In the second half we have managed to generate chances. If we correct the errors we know we can win games."

The result lifted Atleti above Real Sociedad into fourth, with Llorente acknowledging the battle for a Champions League place could go right to the wire.

"You can see that it is going to be a very tight fight up there," he added. "There are teams that are doing things very well. Winning three points is very complicated. If you are not at 100 per cent anyone can take them away from you."

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."

It's possible that no manager in European football has had a greater transformational effect on a club this century than Diego Simeone has had at Atletico Madrid.

Of course, it's impossible to actually prove/disprove that, but when you consider his eight trophy successes is almost a quarter of all the major silverware the club have ever won, most counterarguments would dissipate.

Yet 2021-22 has been far from smooth, and they could head into Sunday's trip to Villarreal 17 points behind pacesetters Real Madrid, assuming Los Blancos beat Valencia 24 hours earlier.

Part of Atletico's problem is they seem to have lost the defensive solidity that's been a cornerstone of Simeone's tactical plan in his decade at the club.

Sunday's match will be the first since the 10-year anniversary of his bow as Atletico coach on January 7, 2012, providing the opportunity to look at how much of a challenge this season is proving to be.

11 away games, no clean sheet

Nothing is more indicative of Atletico's current malaise than their struggles to shut teams out – they're not getting battered, but we're so used to seeing them boast the shrewdest defence in LaLiga.

That's simply not the case this season.

Their 22 goals conceded is bettered by seven teams and isn't far off being twice as many as Sevilla (13), LaLiga's strongest defence this term.

Atletico's issues have been particularly prominent on the road. They've not secured an away clean sheet in LaLiga in any of their previous 11 such games, which is their worst run since December 2010 (17 matches).

No team has more away clean sheets across the top five leagues than Atletico (85) since Simeone's first match, but Manchester City (82) are closing in, fast.

Missing home comforts

The away struggles alluded to before also translates to defeats, with Atletico losing each of the three most recent matches on their travels.

It's worth remembering that two of those came to Madrid and Sevilla, first and second in the table, but typically Simeone's Atletico are solid enough that such sequences don't occur, regardless of the opposition.

In fact, prior to this run, Atletico had not conceded two or more goals in three successive away league games since January/February 2014.

If they lose to Villarreal, it will be their first streak of four consecutive defeats on the road since December 2011, the month Simeone was appointed.

Yellow Submarine on the rise

It wasn't so long ago that Unai Emery appeared to be in danger of being sacked, then he held talks with Newcastle United but ultimately rejected them.

Some might even suggest that his show of loyalty then bought him a little more time at the Ceramica.

As it turns out, Villarreal staying their hand seems to have worked out well. While they may only be as high as eighth, fourth-placed Atletico are just four points ahead of them.

Their recent run has been crucial to that as well, having won each of their past four league games, the most successive LaLiga victories they've managed under Emery.

The end is Unai?

Atletico can perhaps take confidence from the fact Emery has a dreadful record against Simeone.

He has never beaten the Argentinian in 15 matches across all competitions, the most games Emery has managed against another coach without a win in his entire career.

On the flip side, every record or streak is there to be broken – this particular one surely cannot go on forever, and this is one of the more beatable Atletico teams Emery has faced.

He will hope the end of that particular run is nigh.

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.

Diego Simeone is "grateful" for what Kieran Trippier has given to Atletico Madrid as the full-back closes in on a move to Newcastle United.

Trippier is reportedly undergoing a medical with Newcastle on Wednesday after an initial £12million (€14.36m) fee was agreed between the clubs.

The England international joined Atleti from Tottenham in July 2019 and has made 86 appearances for the Spanish side in all competitions.

Across his two and a half seasons in LaLiga, Trippier ranks joint-fourth for assists (10) and fourth for chances created (81) among defenders.

He played a key part in Atletico's title triumph last term and Simeone has wished the 31-year-old well at his next club.

"I always look at the positives," Simeone said at a news conference on Wednesday previewing Atletico's Copa del Rey round-of-32 tie with Rayo Majadahonda.

"I'm absolutely grateful for the time Kieran has been here with us. The club gave him 48 hours to resolve the situation. He's behaved very well and been very important for us."

 

Trippier started Sunday's 2-0 win over Rayo Vallecano, though Marcos Llorente has also been regularly used at right-back this campaign.

However, Simeone confirmed Atletico will look to bring in a replacement for Trippier.

"We look ahead to what is next, and seek out alternatives," he said. "The club knows exactly what we need and are after. 

"We are always in common agreement, but if not then we will continue with the players we have."

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 insisted Kieran Trippier is an important player to Atletico Madrid but suggested the right-back may leave the club amid talk of a move to Newcastle.

Eddie Howe's side head into their first transfer window following the Saudi Arabian-backed takeover in October, with Newcastle reportedly submitting a formal bid to make Trippier the first signing of their new era.

The experienced Trippier has repeatedly been linked with a mid-season switch to Newcastle, having impressed during his stint in the Spanish capital, and has also previously been suggested as a target of Manchester United, Arsenal and Everton.

Trippier, who joined the reigning LaLiga champions from Tottenham in July 2019, has managed 67 top-flight appearances for Atletico, while Howe has previously managed the 31-year-old when the pair crossed paths at Burnley in 2012.

Atletico head coach Simeone addressed the transfer speculation on Saturday as he expressed his admiration for Trippier, though he conceded that managers cannot influence players' decisions to leave.

"Kieran Trippier has to decide whether he is leaving or not," Simeone told reporters on New Year's Day at his news conference.

"We will move on following his decision. We have always had these situations where very good players have the possibility of leaving.

"It will depend on what the player wants. We will then look for solutions. We coaches can't do too much in terms of players' decisions. We can only tell Trippier how important he is for the team."

Trippier has hardly excelled for his current team this campaign, failing to register a goal or an assist in 17 games across all competitions, but his previous displays for Tottenham highlight the quality Newcastle would be acquiring.

He created 49 chances in 27 Premier League games in 2018-19, the third-highest for defenders behind only Lucas Digne (71) and Andy Robertson (51), while playing eight and nine games fewer than the respective full-backs.

His addition would offer Howe an attacking outlet and the former Bournemouth manager will also hope the full-back can firm up Newcastle's defence, which conceded 80 league goals in 2021 – the most shipped by any Premier League team in a calendar year.

Howe's side are currently 19th, having won only once in their opening 19 league matches and collected just 11 points.

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.

Diego Simeone is hoping to emerge as a better coach following Atletico Madrid's poor run of form as he prepares to celebrate a decade in charge.

Atleti went down 2-1 to Sevilla on Saturday and have lost three LaLiga games under Simeone for the first time ahead of Wednesday's trip to Granada.

That match comes a day before the Argentinian officially marked 10 years since replacing Gregorio Manzano at Atleti.

While Simeone has enjoyed a hugely successful period as Atleti head coach, the 51-year-old has spent most of this season fending off criticism.

But speaking ahead of his side's final outing of 2021, Simeone vowed to stick by his principles in order to turn things around.

"Criticism is understandable and normal," he said at Tuesday's news conference previewing the Granada game. "We're in a position with a lot of exposure.

"If you win everything then things are going well. I understand the situation. It's important to get back to repeating passages from when the team was performing well.

"I am always looking for ways to improve myself and this path will surely make me a better coach. That is what I hold on to. This club has known me now for 10 years.

"The players come to training knowing what I want. They know I am not going to change the line in which I believe."

 

Simeone has won eight trophies, including a second LaLiga title last season, and reached two Champions League finals across his 10 previous seasons with Atletico.

Wednesday's trip to 15th-place Granada, whom Simeone is unbeaten against in 15 league matches as Atleti boss, provides a chance for Los Colchoneros to bounce back.

"Our focus is on Granada, a team with a clear that that has been performing well and with great intensity," Simeone said. 

"It's clear our results have not been what we would have liked. It is also true that at other times we've won games we've probably not deserved to. Football gives and takes away.

"I trust my players and they are all working well. They have played good games, even if results have not indicated that. If there's something I have, it's patience."

Simeone was unwilling to comment on whether Luis Suarez would feature in midweek after the striker reacted angrily to being substituted against Sevilla.

Suarez has failed to score in each of his last seven games in all competitions, his worst goalscoring streak with both Atletico and former side Barcelona.

Asked about Suarez's outburst when leaving the field, Simeone said: "I have nothing to say.

"Suarez is lethal when we are close to the opposition area. If we can get closer then he will be like he was last season."

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone admits his side are in a "difficult moment" but took full responsibility after Saturday's 2-1 loss to Sevilla.

Atletico slumped to their third straight defeat in LaLiga, leaving them fifth on the table and 13 points behind leaders Real Madrid.

Felipe's 33rd-minute header had levelled the game after Ivan Rakitic rifled in a seventh-minute opener for Sevilla. Lucas Ocampos forced home the winner in the 88th minute, condemning Atleti to another loss.

"We are going through a difficult moment, and the results are not there for us," Simeone told reporters.

"But I have the same illusion as always. We have to work, recover players from injury and have confidence we can get back on track.

"We must seek to find the forcefulness, so things roll naturally for us, but the responsibility is mine, and we are going to take lessons moving forward, that is for sure."

Atletico were without Antoine Griezmann, Jose Maria Gimenez, Stefan Savic and Sime Vrsaljko due to injury.

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