Atletico never said LaLiga title race was over - Koke

By Sports Desk March 07, 2021

Koke insists Atletico Madrid's focus is not slipping in LaLiga after their lead was cut again this weekend as they drew with Real Madrid.

Atleti are now just three points clear of second-placed Barcelona, albeit with a game in hand, as they failed to respond after Ronald Koeman's men won on Saturday.

Luis Suarez opened the scoring in Sunday's Derbi, but Atleti's winless run against Madrid was extended to 10 league matches thanks to Karim Benzema's late leveller.

It means Diego Simeone's side have won just nine points from six matches since the start of February, a period in which Barca have claimed 16 and Madrid 14.

But Atleti will have the opportunity to increase their advantage again on Wednesday when they play their leftover fixture against Athletic Bilbao.

And Koke says his team are ready to fight again, eager to improve on a run of one win in five in all competitions.

"It is you who said the league was over and such and such," he told Movistar. "This goes until the season is over.

"We have to focus on Wednesday's game, when we can earn points while our rivals cannot."

As well as their long sequence without victory against Madrid in all league matches, Atleti are yet to beat their neighbours at the Wanda Metropolitano in four attempts in LaLiga.

"We were superior, but they can score at any moment," Koke said. "Fresh people came on and the team tried to push forward, but we have had a great rival who have a lot of potential to score goals.

"It is true that we have not been able to beat them here yet, but we have not been able to win [against Madrid] for a long time."

Benzema's equaliser was the last of eight attempts from the former France striker, three of which drew outstanding stops from Jan Oblak, who ended with seven saves.

"I was angry, because a few minutes earlier I was able to score but the goalkeeper made good saves," explained Benzema, whose 371st LaLiga appearance set a new Madrid record among non-Spanish players.

"I think we played a good game. It was very difficult against a good team. I think the first half was for them and the second half for us. It was a good point."

The point made Zinedine Zidane just the second Madrid coach to avoid defeat in his first four away games against Atleti in LaLiga history, following in the footsteps of Luis Molowny in 1986.

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