Simeone refuses to get involved in Griezmann-Messi saga

By Sports Desk November 20, 2020

Diego Simeone refused to give his two cents on Antoine Griezmann's struggles at Barcelona after it was suggested Lionel Messi was to blame.

Griezmann's former adviser Eric Olhats said last week the France star was made to feel unwelcome by Messi upon joining Barca from Atletico Madrid for €120million in July.

The 29-year-old is averaging a LaLiga goal every 273 minutes for the Blaugrana, far below his record of one every 152 minutes across five seasons at Atletico.

When asked about Olhats' remarks upon returning from international duty with Argentina on Wednesday, Messi said: "I'm tired of being to blame for everything that's wrong with the club."

Despite presiding over Griezmann's far more successful time at Atleti, Simeone was unwilling to give his opinion on why the move is yet to bear fruit ahead of his team welcoming Ronald Koeman's side to the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday.

"I have a great personal affection for Antoine and it would not be appropriate for me to assess what is happening at Barcelona," said Simeone.

"Those questions are for the Barcelona coach, and he will explain what he sees fit."

Atleti lost Hector Herrera and Manu Sanchez to injury during the international break, while Luis Suarez and Lucas Torreira will miss out against Barca after testing positive for coronavirus.

"It wouldn't be my place to have an opinion on the coronavirus protocols," said Simeone.

"As for the positive tests that have affected us, we are part of society and some people can get it. We will have to use other players in the games and we hope Luis Suarez and Lucas recover as soon as possible.

"We are in a moment in the world in which this can happen, and it has affected us."

Barca have been in a state of turmoil since their Champions League quarter-final humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich in August, but Simeone does not believe their tumultuous state gives Atleti a better chance of emerging from their game with all three points.

"Every game is an opportunity and obviously this is one. We will try to take the game where we can hurt them and play the game we want to," said Simeone.

"They are a rival with great standing, a squad that is being rejuvenated, but with young players with experience and an exceptional level.

"It will be hard, difficult and we will try to achieve what we want."

Atleti have failed to win in their past 20 LaLiga games against Barca, with their only worst such run against Real Madrid between 2000 and 2013.

However, they are the only undefeated team left in the division and are on a club-record 23-game unbeaten run, while Barca have only been victorious in one of their past five top-flight outings.

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    We have looked at some of the best Opta statistics behind Leeds' start to the 2020-21 campaign, comparing that to past Premier League years and what is happening elsewhere in Europe this year.

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    Leeds have had a good opening to the new season and their 11 points from nine games already puts them a healthy seven points clear of the relegation zone.

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    Leeds' style of play has also led to a host of entertaining matches, their dramatic 4-3 defeat to champions Liverpool on the opening weekend setting the tone.

    Their 14 goals make Leeds the top scorers in the bottom half while only two teams have conceded more than the 17 they have leaked.

    With 130 total shots, Leeds are second only to Liverpool in that regard, while they are fourth when it comes to attempts on target (48), both incredibly impressive figures for a promoted side.

    They have completed 4,756 passes in their nine matches, which again sees them rank favourably.

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    Leeds' average possession figure is a tremendous 60.46 per cent, highlighting the control they have had in most of their matches. Only Pep Guardiola's City (62.57) sit above them in that metric.

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    However, the case against Bielsa's nomination would be that when it comes to Leeds' overall record, while 11 points is a decent return, it is certainly nothing special.

    Prior to this season, 34 promoted teams had earned 11 or more points inside their first nine top-flight matches.

    Some of those have far exceeded that total. Nottingham Forest had 21 points from their first nine games in 1994-95 and went on to finish in third place.

    Hull City stunned the league with 20 points in nine matches in 2008, while Wigan Athletic had recorded 19 by this stage in 2005.

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    Looking specifically at 2020, Bielsa is not the only coach of a promoted team in Europe's major leagues to have captured the headlines this season.

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    One of the other promoted teams in Spain, Elche - who recently beat Valencia - are poised to overtake Cadiz having racked up 12 points from eight games to start the campaign.

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    Virgil van Dijk ran Messi close in 2019, but this year's top honour surely belongs to an attacker - particularly with the Liverpool centre-back and Sergio Ramos playing just eight and seven games respectively over this span due to injury and suspension.

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    Although Thiago Alcantara, who has since departed for Liverpool, was included, it was perhaps slightly surprising to see only two members of Bayern's treble-winning team make the list.

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