Atletico always need 'extraordinary' Joao Felix – Simeone

By Sports Desk January 24, 2021

Diego Simeone insists Atletico Madrid "always need" Joao Felix despite dropping the "extraordinary" forward in recent weeks.

Joao Felix scored one and assisted another as LaLiga leaders Atletico beat Valencia 3-1 on Sunday, but it was the club-record signing's first league start of 2021.

The Portugal forward had not scored in LaLiga since November 7, costing him his place in Simeone's starting XI.

Even against Valencia, having attempted three shots and made two key passes, Joao Felix was withdrawn after 62 minutes for Angel Correa.

It was a move that paid off as Correa added the third goal - Joao Felix having set Luis Suarez clear for the crucial second - and Simeone hailed his changing frontline as evidence of competition in the Atleti squad.

"Joao Felix is an extraordinary player," Simeone said. "We always need him.

"The competition is high, beautiful, good. They are all eager to play and we will have to give the time we can for the good of the team.

"[Joao Felix] is growing, as he has been doing since he arrived. He is important and everything he gives us helps us."

In maintaining his unbeaten home record against Valencia, which now stands at six wins and four draws from 10 LaLiga matches, Simeone took Atleti seven points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand over second-placed Real Madrid.

The Rojiblancos coach was not interested in assessing the state of play at the summit, though, instead turning attention to Atleti's next test on Sunday.

"Cadiz, nothing more," Simeone replied when asked about the advantage over Madrid and Barcelona, who are a further three points back from Los Blancos.

Related items

  • Moyes not revising ambition after West Ham's perfect Europa League start Moyes not revising ambition after West Ham's perfect Europa League start

    West Ham manager David Moyes is refusing to get carried away with his side's perfect start to the Europa League and insists his goal remains qualifying for the knockout stages.

    The Hammers made it three wins from three games in Group H after defeating Belgian club Genk 3-0 at home on Thursday, following victories over Dinamo Zagreb and Rapid Vienna.

    West Ham are only the second English side to win each of their first three group games in a single Europa League campaign without conceding a goal, alongside Tottenham in 2013-14.

    The last team from any nation to achieve this was Sevilla who eventually won the competition in 2019-20 but Moyes would not be drawn on any comparisons.

    "I'm keeping relatively calm because we've got to go to Genk away and Vienna away," Moyes during his post-game news conference. "I'm not going to take anything for granted.

    "I said I want to be in Europe after Christmas. That's my plan for this year. We need another couple of points to qualify, not to win the group but if we can get that it would be a great start.

    "The players have done a brilliant job. They really have. We've not won any of them easily. They've all been tough. The games have been close, even though we've been the better team in all three of the games. We've got to keep working to get those extra points to make sure we qualify."

    West Ham's first two goals against Genk came from set pieces, with Craig Dawson and Issa Diop heading home from Aaron Cresswell's free-kicks.

    Cresswell has assisted eight goals from dead-ball situations in all competitions since the start of the season, more than any other Premier League player.

    Dawson has netted five goals in all club competitions this calendar year, which is equal best for any Premier League defender along with Manchester City's John Stones.

    Angelo Ogbonna nodded in the winner from a Jarrod Bowen set-piece in Sunday's Premier League win over Everton too.

    "It may be more effective in European football," Moyes said when asked about his side's set-piece threat. "The Premier League has got a lot of strong defences, and attackers who can defend set-pieces.

    "Up until Everton, I’m not sure we had scored this season from a set-piece, so it is not as if we have been doing it every game but thankfully we got the winning goal at Everton and tonight as well.

    "Craig Dawson is excellent at it, Issa Diop gets a goal tonight from it as well. Our centre-halves are the players on top scoring goals at the moment so I am happy with that and long may that continue."

  • MLB playoffs 2021: Soler cleared to return for Braves ahead of NLCS Game 5 MLB playoffs 2021: Soler cleared to return for Braves ahead of NLCS Game 5

    Former World Series champion Jorge Soler has been cleared to return for the Atlanta Braves ahead of Game 5 of the National League Championship Series (NLCS) against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday.

    The Braves opened up a 3-1 NLCS lead with Wednesday's 9-2 victory, leaving the World Series champions needing to win three elimination games to progress.

    Soler has been absent for the Braves after testing positive to COVID-19 during their National League Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers.

    The 2019 American League run leader hit .269 with 14 home runs and 33 RBIs across 55 games for Atlanta after his trade deadline deal from the Kansas City Royals.

    "He's been working out on his own," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "I think he's good to go. That's a great weapon off the bench right there."

    The Dodgers have lost third baseman Justin Turner to a hamstring injury, with Andy Burns added to their roster to replace him.

    Turner hit .278 with 27 home runs, 87 RBIs and 148 hits across the regular season.

  • Gerrard: Rangers close to perfect after kick-starting Europa League campaign Gerrard: Rangers close to perfect after kick-starting Europa League campaign

    Steven Gerrard says Rangers were close to perfect as they claimed an important victory over Brondby in the Europa League.

    First-half goals from Leon Balogun and Kemar Roofe sealed a 2-0 win at Ibrox – and the hosts' first points of this season's competition.

    That helped Gerrard's team move off the bottom of Group A at the halfway stage, while closing the gap on second-placed Sparta Prague to just a single point.

    The Rangers boss admitted the pressure was on his side, who began their campaign with defeats against Sparta and runaway leaders Lyon.

    But he was ultimately delighted with the way his players rose to the occasion on Thursday.

    "I thought it was a strong home performance in Europe," Gerrard told BT Sport.

    "We've kick-started our Europa League campaign. The first two results haven't been good enough, which put a lot of pressure on us tonight.

    "But we've got to go and replicate this performance and result [away at Brondby] in a couple of weeks' time.

    "I thought the fans were magnificent. The game plan we set out to do, the players have delivered.

    "It's really close to the performance we're looking for. 

    "We've played well for halves and 60 minutes, but tonight was really close to a perfect 90-minute performance."

    Gerrard also hailed the display of Joe Aribo, who provided a constant threat to the reigning Danish Superliga champions with his pace and power.

    No Rangers player was involved in more duels (15) than the winger, who also completed 58 of his 62 passes and only James Tavernier (111) among the hosts' team bettered his tally of 93 touches.

    The 25-year-old has recently been linked with a move away from Ibrox, with Gerrard admitting it will be difficult to retain his services should he continue to perform to a high level. 

    "He's a great kid; he wants to learn and he wants to grow," the Rangers boss added.

    "What I've said to Joe is: 'you're a much better player when you play angry in a nice way. You're a big strong lad; go and put yourself about' and when he does, he's a joy to watch.

    "I thought his first 45-minute performance was outstanding. That's probably the reason why he tired a little bit, but he's played a lot and he's been away on international duty [with Nigeria]. 

    "But if he can find that performance consistently over 90 minutes, we'll be lucky to keep hold of him."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.