Emotions, not clean sheets the key for Simeone

Omnisport

Diego Simeone believes Atletico Madrid's defensive resilience is merely a by-product of the players' commitment to his footballing vision.

Atleti edged a 1-0 win over Real Valladolid on Saturday, the first time they have recorded back-to-back LaLiga victories since beating Real Betis and Levante either side of the mid-season break.

A return encounter against the latter opponents is up next for Los Colchoneros, whose previous away fixture ended in a 5-0 shellacking of Osasuna.

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The departures of Diego Godin and Lucas Hernandez last year forced Simeone to remodel his backline, with Stefan Savic and Jose Gimenez stepping up to form a fine alliance at centre-back, while Kieran Trippier and Renan Lodi have proved shrewd full-back additions.

Backed up by the exceptional Jan Oblak between the posts, Atletico have only been breached 22 times in 30 LaLiga games in 2019-20, although Simeone insists he is reluctant to rely too much on this obduracy.

"There will always be mistakes, all teams make mistakes," he told a pre-match news conference.

"We must try to be focused and, with the best security we can offer the team, we have rotated.

"I am still convinced that the team's strength is the emotional convention of the group. This will be the way to reach the goals we want."

That goal, at least until August's mini-tournament in Lisbon to conclude this season's competition comes around, is securing qualification for the Champions League with a top-four finish.

The weekend result left Atleti in third, level on points with Sevilla immediately behind them and six better off than Valencia down in eighth.

More sparkling form from Joao Felix would certainly strengthen their hand after the Portugal youngster notched a brace as Osasuna were torn apart.

"He is a different player," Simeone said of the €120million recruit, who has endured a mixed debut campaign in LaLiga.

"We have always valued him, we have seen him in training and in games. Surely, when he grows up and can spend more time in situations that are decisive for the team, he will continue to evolve.

"He has all the important qualities to break a game. With his growth in the game he will grow even more as a footballer."

Experience is certainly not something Joao Felix's boss lacks.

If Atleti are victorious against Levante, Simone will equal Luis Aragones as the coach with the most LaLiga victories for the club.

"I did not know about this and, as I have already said, I do not stop on the path we are going through," he added.

"This is not the time to stop and look in the mirror; it is only time to work, win and continue in the best possible way."

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