European Super League: Atletico Madrid officials will do what's best for club, insists Simeone

By Sports Desk April 18, 2021

Diego Simeone is confident Atletico Madrid officials will do what is best for the club amid talk of a new European Super League.

Reports emerged on Sunday claiming that 12 clubs – including LaLiga leaders Atleti – will compete in the new competition, a rival to the UEFA Champions League. 

Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Milan and Inter are said to be the other sides involved, though the proposal reportedly includes an expansion option to 16 or 18 teams.

UEFA responded strongly, insisting it will do everything in its power to block the plans, including banning the 12 clubs from their own competitions, while there has also been a suggestion that players involved may not be allowed to represent their countries on the international stage.

Speaking after his side's 5-0 thumping of rock-bottom Eibar on Sunday, Simeone said he had no doubts any decision made by Atleti would have the club's best interests at heart.

"We are prepared to train the clubs," he told a media conference. "Our club will make the best decision for our future.

"I am a coach and I am prepared to train wherever they tell me. I have no doubt that the club will decide what is best for us."

Atleti tightened their grip at the LaLiga summit with a clinical win over Eibar, who did not register a single shot.

Angel Correa put Atleti 2-0 up at the interval – his first brace in 273 games across all competitions for the club – before Yannick Carrasco added a third shortly after the interval.

Marcos Llorente then added a double of his own to wrap up all three points in style, the Spaniard's first helping him reach 10 LaLiga goals in a season for the first time in his career.

It marked just Atleti's fifth win in their past 12 LaLiga matches, but they still have a slender advantage over neighbours Real Madrid and Barcelona as they bid to win a first title since the 2013-14 season.

Atleti did not have a shot on goal until the 34th minute and Simeone was pleased with his side's renewed dynamism after the interval.

"Goals always generate enthusiasm and energy," he added. "The second half was not the same as the first; we were much more dynamic, precise, with more movements. Energy and winning always gives you strength.

"The most important thing is to be able to win. It is what gives you peace of mind for the next day."

Correa has now been involved in 17 goals this season across all competitions (six goals, 11 assists) – just one behind his best ever return for Atleti in a single season (18 in 2016-17 and 2017-18).

Simeone was pleased with the Argentina international's contribution after a season which has seen him feature in every LaLiga game.

"We have been working together for many years," Simeone said. "We understand when to talk and when to leave the footballer alone and the numbers speak for themselves in the confidence we have in him; he is the only one who has participated in all the games of the season."

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    Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane says his side will go until the final minute in the LaLiga title race after closing within two points of leaders Atletico Madrid on Thursday.

    Madrid won 4-1 away to Granada to keep the pressure on the leaders with games to go, while moving ahead of third-placed Barcelona who are a further two points back after their 3-3 draw at Levante earlier in the week.

    Atletico remain in the box seat to clinch their first LaLiga title since 2013-14, but Zidane's side remain in the hunt should there be any slip-ups.

    "We'll keep going; there are two games left and we'll go to the end, until the final minute, we'll give it our all," Zidane said post-game.

    Atletico's final two league games are at home to 11th-placed Osasuna and away to 18th-placed Valladolid, while Real go to ninth-placed Athletic Bilbao and host seventh-placed Villarreal on the final day.

    Madrid are unbeaten in their last 16 games in LaLiga (W11 D5), the best current unbeaten run in the competition. In addition, Los Blancos have equalled their best unbeaten run in a single league campaign under Zidane, achieved in 2016-17 (P16 W12 D4).

    Zidane was delighted with the win at Granada which loomed as a tricky assignment in the run home.

    "It's not just about the goals," the Frenchman said. "We played very well, defensively too.

    "We started the game very well, it was a complete performance. I say that because at 2-1 we didn't let our intensity drop, we scored again quickly and that shows our character.

    "Thibaut [Courtois] made two or three saves, as he has been doing lately, but it's all good. In general terms it was a good win against a decent side at a tough place to come, because Granada are a side who have had a fantastic year."

    Marvin was substituted at half-time after a hamstring issue, while Marcelo did not play due to a minor injury concern as Zidane fielded his youngest starting XI all season.

    "Marvin picked up a knock. I hope it's nothing serious but yes, he felt something in his hamstring," Zidane said.

    "Marcelo didn't play because of an injury and we didn't want to take any risks, as always. The injury is the reason why he didn't come with us."

  • Solskjaer worried about defence as Liverpool expose Man Utd set-piece frailties Solskjaer worried about defence as Liverpool expose Man Utd set-piece frailties

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted he is concerned about Manchester United's defending, especially from set-pieces, after they were beaten at home by Liverpool.

    The Red Devils took the lead through a deflected Bruno Fernandes strike but went on to lose 4-2 at Old Trafford on Thursday as Jurgen Klopp's side boosted their Champions League hopes.

    Liverpool's equaliser came following a corner, Diogo Jota turning in a Nat Phillips effort, and they took the lead in first-half injury time when Roberto Firmino headed in Trent Alexander-Arnold's free-kick.

    Firmino got his second just after half-time from a rebound from a Dean Henderson save and, although United got a goal back through Marcus Rashford, Mohamed Salah struck a fourth with a late breakaway goal.

    United's defence rarely looked comfortable without captain Harry Maguire as they suffered a third defeat in eight days in all competitions, while they have now conceded 27 home goals in the league this season, the most in a single season since 1969-70.

    More worrying is their persistent fallibility from dead-ball situations. United have conceded 33 per cent of their league goals against in 2020-21 from set-pieces (14 out of 42, not including penalties), which is the highest ratio in the division.

    They also conceded from a last-minute corner against Milan in the Europa League last-16 first leg, while Manchester City's goals in their 2-0 EFL Cup semi-final win at Old Trafford came from a free-kick and a poorly cleared corner.

    Manager Solskjaer would not criticise his players for the way they lost possession in the build-up to Liverpool's third, but those set-piece concerns are ones he wants to address.

    "The goals we conceded, set-plays, [it is] disappointing," said Solskjaer. "That is something we have to work on because we have conceded too many goals from it.

    "The third one, we want to play out, we have been good at playing out, we put pressure on them to play out and sometimes we've scored goals from it.

    "Today, unfortunately, the two or three mistakes that happened cost us a goal. But they tried to correct it by winning it back and then we lost it after winning it back.

    "Football would be really boring if no-one made a mistake. That is the whole idea of football. Of course, you try to eradicate them and work on them, but we have conceded too many goals and we could have avoided some of these and especially the timings of them.

    "We're going to use the next couple of days well, to recover physically and mentally, and then we have to prepare for Fulham and then Wolves and then the final. We should have more energy.

    "We should use this period well. More energy means a better press; a better press means less chances against.

    "We will work on it and brush up on a few details, pay attention to some details on the set plays and put the players in the frame of mind that these set-plays are vital in football. But we can do so much better and when we do that, we will improve."

    With Maguire set to miss their final league games against Fulham and Wolves, and with the captain a major doubt for the Europa League final on May 26, Solskjaer is looking for others to take on leadership roles.

    He said: "Harry has been amazing since he came to the club, he's been more or less ever-present, so of course, when a player is a leader, a captain, the status of him, his presence is missed.

    "But then we've got players who can come in and it's a chance for everyone to take on that little bit of leadership. We need to do that when he's gone.

    "You can hear him in the stands when he's not playing. He is important for us and someone else has to just take that responsibility now.

    "I'm sure that, in the next two games, we will be without him. Hopefully, we can get him in for the final but who knows? I don't know yet."

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