Joao Felix insists he is happy under Simeone as Atletico Madrid star prepares for Chelsea clash

By Sports Desk March 16, 2021

Atletico Madrid star Joao Felix has denied there are problems between him and head coach Diego Simeone.

The Portugal star has struggled for consistency at the Wanda Metropolitano and Simeone appeared to question his work-rate last week, although he later claimed his comments had been misinterpreted.

The €126million attacker is set to start on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge, where Atleti will attempt to overturn a 1-0 deficit to Chelsea in the Champions League last 16.

The 21-year-old, who has vowed to make sure he maximises his talent during his career, now hopes to prove there is a strong working relationship at the club.

"I'm happy here, my family are too. There are good and not-so-good phases everywhere," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"I had to defend for Benfica and the national team, too. I'll do what I have to do here.

"Without will, talent doesn't come through. Many talented players could not reach the top due to not having will and I don't want that to happen to me.

"The moment for me has to be all the time. We're strong because we're a very strong group. And that will be the case tomorrow."

Joao Felix caused a stir with a pointed celebration after scoring against Villarreal, in which he made a 'shushing' gesture, something that delighted Simeone.

The player himself says the incident was simply part of a joke with team-mate Renan Lodi, which was blown out of proportion.

"I already said on Instagram that it was a joke with Lodi. The press likes to talk about things they don't know about," he said.

"My relationship with Cholo is very good. He always tries to help me. We're here to help each other."

Atleti are unbeaten under Simeone in two previous Champions League trips to Stamford Bridge and have progressed from four of the eight two-legged ties in the competition in which they have lost the first leg.

However, a run of two wins in 10 away games in the knockouts does not bode well against a side who are unbeaten in 12 matches under Thomas Tuchel and have conceded only twice in that run.

Simeone hopes to turn that good form into a negative for Chelsea, who have had to cope with only minimal setbacks since Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard.

"I believe today Chelsea don't have a weakness," he said. "The only thing is they don't know what can happen from a negative point of view. 

"They have not had a negative result yet and that will be a question until it happens.

"We are facing a team that has done quite well since their coach has come, they have never lost. They feel strong at home and are playing quite well. 

"They have had games like us around the Champions League matches that have been close and tough. We have to take the match where we want so we can win with a goal. The single idea is to win."

Simeone is backing Luis Suarez to make the difference and end his barren Champions League run, the Uruguay striker having not scored in the competition this season.

Suarez's away run in the competition is of greater concern, the 34-year-old having failed to score in his previous 25 such games for Atleti and Barcelona since netting in a 1-1 draw with Roma at Stadio Olimpico in September 2015.

"I believe Suarez is very important for us," Simeone said. "Probably tomorrow is the right day for Luis Suarez to end the streak. Why not? Tomorrow could be a beautiful day."

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  • Liverpool must 'rally round' Nunez after red card – Milner Liverpool must 'rally round' Nunez after red card – Milner

    James Milner and his team-mates will "rally round" Darwin Nunez after the striker was sent off on his home debut on Monday, Liverpool's vice-captain has said.

    The Uruguayan was dismissed just before the hour mark at Anfield by referee Paul Tierney during Liverpool's 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace after he reacted to being shoved by Joachim Andersen by pushing his head into the Dane's face.

    The Reds were 1-0 down at the time, but still managed to salvage a point after Luis Diaz equalised Wilfried Zaha's first-half opener with a thunderous effort from all of 25 yards at the Kop end.

    The hosts could have won it at the death, with Mohamed Salah and substitute Fabio Carvalho both going close with volleyed efforts, though Zaha also nearly snatched it at the other end.

    Speaking to Sky Sports after the game, Milner said Nunez will learn from his mistake, with the help of his team-mates.

    "I didn't see the incident," the 36-year-old said. "Obviously he's going to be disappointed with that and it's down to us to get round him and rally. I'm sure he'll learn from it.

    "I think the reaction [from the team] was the most important thing. The team reacted very, very well and the ground reacted very well – as they always do – they got right behind us and we could've nicked a winner. It wasn't to be but we move on.

    "That's what good teams do, they get together with disappointments and you stick together. We've got a great team spirit at the club and you don't have to say too much about the fans here. They're obviously incredible and always get behind us, especially when things are tough. They did that and we rallied.

    "It was disappointing not to get the winner but I think the reaction was incredible from the boys – 10 men and kept pushing."

    Liverpool have already lost ground in the race for the title, sitting four points behind champions Manchester City after two games, but Milner is not concerned given the campaign is still in its infancy.

    "It's not the ideal start but you see the readiness for the season and it's obviously a long, long season," he said. "It's not the start we would want but you see the fight there.

    "We've had a week of tough things that have gone on [injuries] and preparation hasn't been ideal. I think it's disappointing but you see the fighting spirit was there and no-one can deny that. We fought until the end."

    Liverpool went into the break 1-0 down despite having 17 shots on goal to Palace's four in the first half, but Milner heaped praise on Diaz for the quality of his leveller in the second.

    "When we had the chances we had and the moments around the box and didn't quite get the break, sometimes you need that moment of brilliance," he added.

    "Obviously when you've got players like [Diaz] on the pitch that can create something out of nothing, it was an incredible goal and hopefully there'll be many more to come this season from him."

  • Klopp concedes Nunez red card 'not the reaction you want to see' after Liverpool draw with Crystal Palace Klopp concedes Nunez red card 'not the reaction you want to see' after Liverpool draw with Crystal Palace

    Jurgen Klopp has said he will speak with Darwin Nunez after the big-money striker was sent off as Liverpool drew 1-1 with Crystal Palace on Monday. 

    The Uruguayan had already endured a frustrating home debut after having five shots with none on target, before seeing red both figuratively and literally just before the hour as he threw his head into Joachim Andersen's face after the Dane shoved him.

    Liverpool dominated proceedings at Anfield despite playing more than a third of the game with 10 men, but were frustrated by a resolute Palace side who could have even taken all three points after Wilfried Zaha missed a late chance.

    Zaha gave the visitors the lead in the first half after running onto a through ball from Eberechi Eze and placing his finish past Alisson into the far right corner.

    Luis Diaz equalised for Liverpool shortly after Nunez's dismissal, beating several players down the left side before cutting inside and smashing a shot into the same corner of the net Zaha had found earlier.

    Speaking to Sky Sports after the game, Klopp said Nunez knew he made a mistake, but added he will have to get used to the physicality of defending in the Premier League and react accordingly.

    "He knows that now himself [that he made a mistake] and I will talk to him," the Reds boss said. "It doesn't make too much sense that I speak about it in public. It is absolutely not the reaction you want to see. Centre halves in the Premier League will do that to him, he's a handful himself and yeah, that's not the reaction."

    Klopp was happier with the contribution of his other South American forward, Diaz, whose goal brought Anfield to life as the hosts tried to force a winner, with Mohamed Salah and substitute Fabio Carvalho both hitting volleys narrowly wide in the closing stages.

    "Luis played a super game, especially after the goal, he played like three or four players," Klopp added. "Incredible goal and of course, we needed that, then we had from the edge [of the penalty area] two nice opportunities, one with Fabio, one with Mo, but in the end it's a point."

    The German coach was philosophical despite the fact his team still await their first win of the season, and already sit four points behind rivals Manchester City in the Premier League table.

    Klopp has a number of players missing through injury, including Ibrahima Konate and Joel Matip, meaning Nat Phillips had to start in defence with Joe Gomez only fit enough for a late cameo from the bench, while Thiago Alcantara, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino are also currently unavailable.

    "[A point is] not exactly what we wanted before the game of course but after this game and all the things that happened, we have to take it," he said.

    "Honestly, the real feeling I have in the moment is I'm proud. Everything that went against us in the week is crazy, it was like a witch was in the building. Every time somebody else had [injury] problems, and putting in such a performance, especially in the circumstances, I am really proud of that."

  • Liverpool 1-1 Crystal Palace: Nunez sees red as Diaz rescues point with wonder strike Liverpool 1-1 Crystal Palace: Nunez sees red as Diaz rescues point with wonder strike

    It was a mixed night for Liverpool's South Americans as Darwin Nunez was sent off on his home debut, but Luis Diaz scored a wonder goal to earn a point for the 10-man hosts in a 1-1 draw against Crystal Palace.

    A frustrating night for Jurgen Klopp's team appeared to be heading for defeat after Wilfried Zaha's first-half opener and Nunez's dismissal just before the hour.

    Diaz's superb individual effort got his team level, though, before last season's Premier League runners-up set about trying to find a winner but to no avail.

    It represents another early season blow to Liverpool's hopes of running champions Manchester City close again in the title race, already four points behind their rivals, but as with their opening draw against Fulham, it may feel like a point gained for Klopp in the circumstances.

    Liverpool started brightly as they tried to find an early opener, with Nunez mishitting a volley at the far post, while Mohamed Salah also went close to scoring from Trent Alexander-Arnold's pull back, but the Egyptian’s side-footed attempt whizzed just wide of the near post.

    After absorbing so much at the other end, it was Palace who took the lead in the 33rd minute when Eberechi Eze got away from Fabinho before playing Zaha in on goal, with the Ivory Coast international placing his shot past Alisson into the bottom-right corner.

    Liverpool thought they were level just before the break as Harvey Elliott's chip found Nunez down the left side of the penalty area, but his deflected shot came back off the post.

    Things went from bad to worse for Nunez as the Uruguayan reacted to being shoved by Joachim Andersen by pushing his head into the Dane, with referee Paul Tierney immediately producing a red card for the Liverpool striker.

    However, the Anfield atmosphere soon improved as Diaz dribbled inside several Palace defenders before unleashing a rocket of a shot past Vicente Guaita's despairing dive to his left.

    The hosts tried to find a winner despite having fewer players, though Palace could also have won it when Zaha missed a great chance at the far post, but both were forced to settle for a point.

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