Simeone praises Atletico spirit after beating Barca

MADRID (Reuters) – Diego Simeone could finally savour a league victory over Barcelona on Saturday in 10 seasons in charge of Atletico Madrid but refused to discuss whether the 1-0 win proved his side were capable of winning La Liga.

Soccer Football – La Liga Santander – Atletico Madrid v FC Barcelona – Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain – November 21, 2020 Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone reacts REUTERS/Sergio Perez

The Argentine had enjoyed success over Barca in the Champions League in 2014 and 2016 and this year’s Spanish Super Cup but had never before taken three points off the Catalans since taking charge of Atleti in 2011.

“We have come very close to beating Barca before, we beat them in Saudi Arabia, we had drawn at their ground and lost by very little here before. Today it was our turn to win, but it won’t change our objectives one bit,” Simeone told reporters.

The coach dismissed comparisons between his current side and the squad which pipped Barca to the Spanish title in 2014 but he did praise his players for how they have kicked on since undergoing deep changes in the summer of 2019.

“The thing we value the most is how the players have grown from last season, they are much more capable of offering what the team needs,” he said.

“The group is in very good shape, I’ve been saying that for a long time and it gives us the belief to keep working hard on what we are doing. Now we must maintain this energy and keep on competing.”

Match winner Yannick Carrasco also shunned a question about Atletico’s title credentials, saying his side were only focusing on Wednesday’s Champions League game against Lokomotiv Moscow.

But captain Koke, the only surviving member of that title winning side, did not rule out the prospect entirely, pointing to the early season problems Barca and champions Real Madrid were having.

“The teams at the top are slipping up right now, so why shouldn’t we dream about winning La Liga?” he said.

“But we’re staying calm, because we haven’t achieved anything yet.”

Reporting by Richard Martin; editing by Grant McCool