Frank Lampard stated Chelsea do not have players to compare to the calibre and experience of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa as he again sought to temper expectations around his youthful stars.

A 1-0 win over 10-man Fulham last weekend was the Blues' first three-point haul since before Christmas and they are seventh in a Premier League table they briefly topped early in December.

Throughout the subsequent slump, when critics have highlighted a moderate return on considerable transfer investment, Lampard has pointed to the fact the likes of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner - the Germany duo who have underwhelmed since arriving for a combined cost in the region of £125million - and a host of other youngsters still have their best years ahead of them.

For now, though, he feels the elite winners from his own playing days at Stamford Bridge are something Chelsea lack and must work towards

"When you look at the Premier League going forward, around us, when people were sort of lauding us to be title challengers and stuff like that, we do have a squad when you look at the composition of it that is very young, particularly in the forward areas," he told reporters ahead of Tuesday's match against third-placed Leicester City.

"We don't have that history of players: goal machines or assist machines or those things that win you games. With our team, it's potential.

"The club hasn't got an Eden Hazard contributing 50 per cent of goals and assists, it hasn't got a Costa scoring 30 goals.

"We're trying to develop those players and I believe in them strongly, but at the moment we're not quite there, where other teams around us possibly are at the front end of the pitch.

"I think for us, and I should just focus on us, there could be tough times. That's why it's important for me, and I've said this to the players, to keep working, but also to be patient and stay calm around that."

Another figure from the club's past, Brendan Rodgers, will be in the opposite dugout to Lampard at the King Power Stadium.

Leicester manager Rodgers was appointed to Chelsea's academy staff during Jose Mourinho's first spell in charge, although he infamously said he did not wish to "destroy" his career when touted as a possible replacement for Andre Villas Boas in 2012 while at Swansea City.

"I don't know, that's a difficult one, I've got to be careful with this one," Lampard replied when asked whether the Chelsea he leads is a more "nurturing" environment than the one Rodgers experienced.

"I don't want to speak for Brendan when he said that. I suppose at that time, there was a turnaround of managers. I was a player here, so I get that.

"Whether he would give the exact same answer tomorrow after the game, maybe not. For me, all I can do is tackle the job that's in front of me and at the moment we, as Chelsea, are not the Chelsea of when Brendan made those quotes.

"I'm presuming they were made at the time of Chelsea having [Didier] Drogba, [Petr] Cech, [John] Terry, I'm not going to name myself, [Claude] Makelele, whoever, and it would have been a team that was always challenging and the benchmark was different.

"At the moment, we're not a team that has Costa, [Cesc] Fabregas, Hazard, any of the era that came slightly after that.

"We're a team relying on players at the front end of the pitch [who] are clearly new to the Premier League, young to the Premier League."

Lampard was keen to highlight his pitch was not one for sympathy.

He added: "We've seen a couple of big clubs and big managers be questioned within one or two or three weeks, a couple of results this year.

"That's the modern world; I'm not crying about this because it's the Premier League, we all have different expectations, [and] if we're seen to not be getting to them, the pressure comes. That's why we're in this job."

Lionel Messi's future has been the subject of much speculation but a reunion with Pep Guardiola is still very much in Manchester City's plans.

Messi has been disgruntled with his situation at Barcelona since the end of last season, despite head coach Ronald Koeman's insistence that his superstar captain is happy.

Four-time Champions League winner Messi unsuccessfully tried to force an exit in August, however there will be no legal clauses to stop him when his contract expires in June 2021.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI WANTED ON FIVE-YEAR DEAL

The City Football Group (CFG) is eyeing a 2021 swoop that will see Lionel Messi split time between their Premier League powerhouse Manchester City and MLS franchise New York City, according to the Telegraph.

A five-year contract could be offered to superstar Barcelona captain Messi, which includes three years in England, taking the six-time Ballon d'Or winner to the age of 37, followed by an additional two more in the United States.

In an interview with Spanish TV channel La Sexta, Messi admitted his desire to one day play in the United States, a hint that City's proposal may be on his mind.

Diego Costa is poised to become a prize catch for one club in the days ahead, but what does the former Atletico Madrid striker have in mind?

He was released from his contract with LaLiga's leaders on Tuesday but looks set to make a swift return to football.

Atleti head coach Diego Simeone said he expects Costa to make a success of his next move, with the likes of Benfica, Arsenal and Wolves already linked with the fiery frontman.

Perhaps Costa will favour a move home to play in his native Brazil, or could MLS beckon?

Could Costa light up the Primeira Liga?

Benfica were linked with Costa in the previous close season, but nothing came of their reported interest. However, the Portuguese giants may still fancy a shot at bringing him to the Estadio da Luz.

They sit five points behind leaders Sporting CP this season, with Switzerland international Haris Seferovic their leading scorer with six goals in just three starts and six substitute appearances.

Would Costa fancy the Portuguese league, which he left behind 13 years ago when departing Braga to head to Spain? A Europa League campaign might bolster the appeal, with Benfica drawn to face Arsenal in the first knockout round.

Is he going to be a Gunner?

Given he was a hate figure for many Arsenal fans during his time at Chelsea, when he was a two-time Premier League winner, it would seem inconceivable for Costa to move to Emirates Stadium.

But needs must, and Arsenal might benefit from some of his attitude and knowhow up front as they battle to climb the Premier League table from a lowly standing.

Reports in Spain have suggested Arsenal's interest is genuine, with the club willing to let bygones be bygones and embrace a former fierce rival.

Whatever would they make of it at Chelsea?

Wolves at the door

There is plenty of circumstantial evidence to suggest a switch to Wolves could be a goer.

Costa's agent is Jorge Mendes, whose influence has helped the Premier League club build a squad with the talent to challenge for a top-six place.

And with Raul Jimenez sidelined after the serious head injury he sustained at Arsenal in November, Wolves could certainly do with an experienced addition to their forward ranks.

Costa might fancy joining a pack of underdogs, and his prospects of regular top-flight football would appear to be good.

Homeward bound

Perhaps the player who left Brazil as a teenager to seek footballing fame and fortune in Europe could be about to announce a return home.

Costa never played professional club football in Brazil and it may hold some appeal before he hangs up his boots.

There might be some making up to do before that happens, however, given he controversially turned his back on Brazil in 2013, in favour of playing international football for Spain.

The MLS route

A player of Costa's stature could be a big draw in MLS, given his achievements in Europe, his background, and his eye-catching style of play.

Goals have been hard to come by in  LaLiga for Costa during his second spell with Atletico, and there may be some appeal in moving to a league where not only would he be assured regular football, but the goals may come more easily.

If Lionel Messi is considering a future move to the United States, then clearly it is below no one, and Costa may relish seeing out his career in the growing league.

Diego Costa was hailed by Diego Simeone as "a fighter" who still has a future in football as the striker's Atletico Madrid career came to an end on Tuesday.

The 32-year-old former Spain international has been a fringe member of the Atletico side this season, making just seven LaLiga appearances and scoring twice.

He was due to reach the end of his contract at the end of the campaign but that has been effectively ripped up, allowing Costa to find a new club.

Costa asked to leave Atletico, citing personal reasons, and has been linked with a return to the Premier League, having previously played in England with Chelsea.

Speaking at a news conference, Simeone appeared to indicate the often fiery forward would be leaving Spain.

"The club have been able to help him without being harmed and that generates peace of mind," said Simeone.

A move to a LaLiga rival on a free transfer is reportedly not on the cards due to clauses built into Costa's exit settlement.

"You know that we love Diego, we have spent a lot of time together in the best way, we gave each other a lot and we have talked with him," Simeone said.

"He also has the need to find new challenges because he is well, strong and I cannot imagine another scenario other than him going on to do good things, because he is a fighter.

"[We want] to thank him, as with all the people who have given us their hearts, and Diego has been one of them from the sporting and human point of view.

"[I] hope that he finds the best way and to be able to hug each other when we meet again, since we have not seen each other for a couple of days because he did not come to train while he was negotiating.

"The most beautiful thing that remains is that we can hug each other when we see each other, celebrate and remember."

Costa scored 83 goals and provided 36 assists in 215 games for Atleti, where he first arrived in 2006 aged only 17.

He won the LaLiga title at the capital club in the 2013-14 season and has also lifted the Copa del Rey and Europa League with Atleti, as well as twice being a Premier League champion during his three-year stay at Chelsea.

Diego Costa has left Atletico Madrid after reaching an agreement to terminate his contract.

Costa's deal was due to expire at the end of this season, but the LaLiga leaders have allowed the striker to make an early exit.

The former Spain international has made just seven appearances for Diego Simeone's side this season, scoring twice.

Atleti said in a statement on Tuesday: "Agreement with @diegocosta for the termination of his contract. The club wishes the striker the best of luck in the next stage of his professional career."

Tottenham are keeping an eye on Sergio Ramos' situation at Real Madrid, while Georginio Wijnaldum is set to decide his future.

Ramos, 34, is coming out of contract at Madrid at the end of the season.

With the defender yet to re-sign, he has been linked with a move away from the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

TOP STORY – TOTTENHAM KEEPING AN EYE ON RAMOS

Tottenham are keeping an eye on Ramos' situation at Real Madrid, according to the Evening Standard.

Spurs boss Jose Mourinho worked with Ramos at Madrid between 2010 and 2013.

Ramos has been at the Spanish giants since 2005, winning five LaLiga titles and three Champions League trophies among numerous other honours.

 

ROUND-UP

- Also out of contract at season's end, Wijnaldum is set to make a decision on his Liverpool future. Sky Sports reports the midfielder will decide this week whether to sign a new deal with the Premier League champions amid links to Barcelona.

- Diego Costa is set to leave Atletico Madrid, who are eyeing a replacement. Marca reports Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik is best placed to replace Costa.

- Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha is again linked with a move. The Sun reports Serie A leaders AC Milan are chasing Zaha in January.

- Arsenal look set to be busy in January. The Sun reports the Premier League club want Sevilla midfielder Joan Jordan in a £32million (€35.3m) move. Meanwhile, The Athletic says Arsenal are unlikely to rekindle their interest in Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar.

- Could Marcos Alonso be returning to Spain? The Independent reports Atletico Madrid are in talks to sign full-back Alonso on loan from Chelsea in January. Alonso has played just three Premier League games for Chelsea this season.

Diego Costa has reportedly asked Atletico Madrid to terminate his contract six months early in order to find a new club in the January transfer window. 

The Spain international - who agreed a return to Atleti in September 2017, though was not able to play for them until January the following year - has endured an injury plagued 2020-21 that has restricted him to just seven appearances. 

Atletico are said to be open to the possibility of offloading Costa should they find suitable cover, with Luis Suarez their only recognised out-and-out striker. 

But how much of a loss would Costa actually be? Using Opta data, the time feels right to take a look at his attacking output in closer detail.

SCORING FEATS AND HELPING OUT

Costa does not exactly boast the best scoring record for a player with his reputation, netting only 12 times in 61 LaLiga appearances since the start of 2018.

Among those to have played at least 38 times during that period - the equivalent of a whole season - he ranks way down in 46th place for goals per 90 minutes (0.29). That is below the likes of Joselu (0.3), Lucas Perez (0.32), Juanmi (0.34) and Pablo Sarabia (0.37) across a similar number of matches.

The 32-year-old has often been praised for getting the most out of others, though that is not exactly reflected in terms of his number of assists.

He has set up a team-mate on only nine occasions across those 61 outings - an average of 0.22 assists per 90 minutes.

For context, former team-mate Antoine Griezmann (0.23) and current colleague Suarez (0.33) rank higher, with Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi (0.45) top by distance in that particular metric.

IMPACT ON THE TEAM

Eight of Costa's 12 LaLiga goals since returning to LaLiga have come via his right boot - including three penalties - plus three with his head. All but one of those goals came inside the box, with exactly half from open play.

But does Costa's presence in the side, as suggested by boss Diego Simeone in the past, have a positive impact on Atletico and the way they function?

In terms of average LaLiga goals scored per game it does, rising from 1.4 in the 67 matches Costa has not started, compared to 1.6 with him in the line-up.

However, Atletico win fewer matches when Costa is involved, with their 61.2 per cent success rate dropping to 51.2 per cent - or 2.1 points per game to 1.9 on average.

A STUTTERING SEASON SO FAR

Costa is no stranger to spending time on the sidelines, not least this season; he initially contracted coronavirus before then being ruled out with deep vein thrombosis.

That has restricted him to seven LaLiga appearances. Only two of those have been from the start, as he was named in the XI for wins over Granada and Celta Vigo.

He may only have netted twice but still boasts an average of 0.87 goals per 90 minutes in the Spanish top flight this term, second only to Suarez (0.94) among Atleti players.

Joao Felix is next on the list (0.58) having scored five goals in 12 outings, though the Portuguese has also chipped in with a couple of assists, something Costa has yet to do in 2020-21.

Costa also ranks highly in terms of shot conversion rate, having scored from half of his four shots this term, not including those to have been blocked.

Another metric he tops is touches in the opposition box, averaging 8.7 per 90 minutes. That is not only the most for any Atleti player but also the third highest in the league - after Barcelona pair Trincao (10.2) and Ansu Fati (9.08) - for those to have featured at least seven times in the competition this term. 

Ultimately, though, Simeone is after a player who can not only combine all of these attacking aspects but also stay fit for a sustained period of time. For that reason, it could be that Costa's time with the club is drawing towards an end.

Thomas Tuchel's tenure as Paris Saint-Germain head coach is all but over.

Tuchel will reportedly be replaced by Mauricio Pochettino, despite leading PSG to Ligue 1 glory last season and the Champions League final.

Can former PSG defender Pochettino help the French giants conquer Europe?

 

TOP STORY – POCH SET FOR PSG

Mauricio Pochettino has agreed terms to take charge of Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Thomas Tuchel's sacking is set to be announced after striking a deal with PSG to leave immediately – the compensation worth €6million, reports Bild.

Former Tottenham manager Pochettino is now poised to return to PSG, where he played between 2001 and 2003.

 

ROUND-UP

Diego Costa has requested to leave Atletico Madrid in January, claims Diario AS and Marca. If Costa is unable to depart during the next window, the veteran striker will farewell Atletico on a free transfer at season's end.

Wolves have joined the chase to sign Real Madrid outcast Luka Jovic, says The Athletic. Wolves are keen to bolster their attack following Raul Jimenez's serious injury and Jovic has emerged as a loan option for the Premier League side. Milan have also been heavily linked with the Serbia international.

Georginio Wijnaldum wants time to reflect on Liverpool's contract offer, reports Fabrizio Romano. Wijnaldum is set to become a free agent amid links to Barca.

- The Mirror reports Arsenal are circling for Brighton and Hove Albion full-back Tariq Lamptey should Hector Bellerin depart for Barcelona. Lamptey has been linked to Manchester City and Bayern Munich.

Sevilla are eyeing a January swoop for Marseille star Florian Thauvin, according to Andaluz Estadio Deportivo. Milan have also been tracking the Frenchman.

- Corriere dello Sport says Juventus and Inter remain keen on signing Udinese's Rodrigo De Paul. Meanwhile, Ilbianconeri claims Juve have been offered Arsenal outcast Mesut Ozil.

Manchester United remain in contact with Moises Caicedo's agents to sign the Independiente del Valle sensation, says Romano. The 19-year-old Ecuadorian midfielder wants to move to Old Trafford.

Erling Haaland is Chelsea's number one transfer target, while a pair of Premier League giants are lining up January bids for Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish.

Borussia Dortmund star Haaland has netted 23 goals in 23 games since moving to the Bundesliga in January, leading to him reportedly being installed as Frank Lampard's top target for the off-season.

Will Haaland make the move to Chelsea?


TOP STORIES – CHELSEA WANT HAALAND

Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland has been identified as Chelsea's top transfer target along with West Ham's Declan Rice, according to Sky Sports journalist Angelo Mangiante.

Haaland has been linked with LaLiga champions Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool.

But Haaland is wanted in London as Chelsea prepare for a clear-out, with seven players being made available – Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Jorginho, Marcos Alonso, Ross Barkley, Danny Drinkwater and Victor Moses.

Diego Simeone is not prepared to risk the fitness of Atletico Madrid attacking trident Luis Suarez, Diego Costa and Joao Felix by starting all three players against Real Sociedad on Tuesday.

Costa marked his return from his latest injury lay-off with a penalty in Atletico's 3-1 win over Elche on Saturday, a game in which Luis Suarez scored his first two goals since recovering from coronavirus.

Joao Felix has carried much of the burden in his team-mates' absence but left the pitch with a knock in the final quarter of the contest, though he is back in training and in contention to face Sociedad.

Simeone has yet to start a game with all three players and does not intend to alter his formation on Tuesday, although he is not against using all three if Atleti are chasing a goal at Estadio de Anoeta.

"I don't think they're all ready to start, but we can finish with them," Simeone said at a pre-match news conference on Monday. "They are dangerous forwards and can play together.

"We have to be patient and get the most out of each player that we have. The most important thing is to ensure they are all well enough to play together."

Atletico have scored 24 goals in 12 LaLiga games this term at a rate of one goal every 45 minutes, compared to 51 goals in 38 outings in 2019-20 - one every 67 minutes.

They have also conceded just five goals all season - the fewest of any team in Europe's top five leagues - an improvement Simeone believes stretches beyond the start of this season.

"Everything is the consequence of something else," he said. "I have been repeating for a long time that the growth appeared when returning after the quarantine period.

"The team attacked very well at the end of last season and we have continued in the same direction this time around. We have improved as a whole and the players have perfectly interpreted what we have asked of them."

Atleti lead the way at the top of LaLiga ahead of their trip to Sociedad, who are three points worse off in third having played three games more.

Sociedad have won four of their last six home LaLiga games against Atletico and Simeone is anticipating a difficult encounter against the division's joint-top scorers.

"They are working well under a coach who is expressing it on the field," he said. "They have a stronger squad than last season, with the arrival of David Silva giving them something extra.

"They have very good midfield and forward players and are a team that competes at a high level."

Diego Simeone is hopeful Joao Felix has just suffered a knock after he was forced off in the second half of Atletico Madrid's win over Elche.

LaLiga leaders Atletico won 3-1 at Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday, with Luis Suarez scoring twice for the hosts.

Forward Joao Felix limped off to be replaced by the returning Diego Costa with 17 minutes to go.

Costa duly wrapped up the victory by winning and converting a late penalty, settling any brief nerves caused by Lucas Boye scoring a header for Elche.

"The blow [Joao Felix took] in the first half was strong and hard," Simeone said about the 21-year-old after the match.

"It was in the play in which they stopped the counter-attack with the block on Joao - he was still playing in the second half with discomfort and pain.

"I saw him working very well for the team despite being uncomfortable, but after he took a shot at goal it was noticed that he was upset.

"Let's hope it's just a knock - we understood [it would be wise] to let him rest. The game was getting complicated and we needed legs in that area of the pitch."

Suarez had gone three games without a goal before scoring the match-winning double in his 200th LaLiga appearance.

Simeone had taken the blame for the striker's dry spell ahead of the match because he put him straight back into the team after a spell out with coronavirus.

The Atletico boss added: "We understand that all players need personal treatment, because the character of each one is different.

"It's like children in families and each one is handled, like with the five I have, in a different way.

"I didn't say anything strange about Luis, he played three games in a row last week when he was coming off a 20-day break.

"I was especially happy with the second goal, he waited until the last possible moment so he did not stray offside and made sure he could be found after a good piece of play by Yannick Carrasco."

Since making his LaLiga debut in October 2014, only Barcelona's Lionel Messi (36) has scored more braces in the competition than Suarez (23).

Luis Suarez scored twice as LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid secured a comfortable 3-1 home victory over Elche.

Atletico had lost the Madrid derby in their last league fixture, ending a 26-match unbeaten run in the competition.

But there was little danger of them suffering a second straight top-flight loss from the moment Suarez put them in front four minutes before half-time on Saturday.

Suarez added a second after the break as he emphatically ended a three-match run without a goal.

Lucas Boye headed in to give Elche hope, but Atletico sealed all three points when substitute Diego Costa converted a penalty with 10 minutes remaining.

Atletico thought they had won an early penalty when Joao Felix's through ball led to Suarez being tugged back by John Donald, only for a VAR check to reveal the striker had strayed offside.

Elche goalkeeper Edgar Badia used his legs to keep out a swerving drive from Marcos Llorente, who also blazed over from another opportunity later in the first half.

Badia then denied Thomas Lemar but there was nothing he could do when Suarez got a faint touch on Kieran Trippier's accurate cross to divert it into the far corner from six yards.

And it was Suarez who appeared to have put the result beyond doubt after 58 minutes, as he slid in to convert Yannick Carrasco's angled left-wing cross from close range at the far post.

Elche got back into it six minutes later when Boye headed into the roof of the net after Tete Morente did well to flick a corner into his path.

Joao Felix limped off for Atletico in the closing stages with what head coach Diego Simeone will hope is not a serious problem.

But aside from Jan Oblak denying Boye, the Joao Felix substitution was the only concern of note, one that meant Costa came off the bench to return from injury after a month out.  

The striker made a quick impression, winning a penalty when he drew a foul from Ivan Marcone before taking the spot-kick himself and sending Badia the wrong way.

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone takes full responsibility for Luis Suarez's disappointing form after suggesting he rushed the striker back from his coronavirus-enforced lay-off.

Suarez missed four matches for Atleti, including a reunion with former side Barcelona, after contracting COVID-19 while away on international duty with Uruguay last month.

The 33-year-old marked his return to action with a goal in the 4-0 win over Cadiz but has since failed to find the net in his last three appearances, totalling 200 minutes on the pitch.

He failed to test Thibaut Courtois from his only shot in last weekend's 2-0 loss to Real Madrid and his 10 completed passes was the fewest of any Atletico player on the day.

Going further back, Suarez has scored just once in his last six club appearances in all competitions, but Simeone has faith the ex-Barcelona man can regain his best form.

"The first person responsible for his form is me," Simeone said at a news conference previewing Saturday's LaLiga clash with Elche.

"As soon as he recovered from coronavirus, we had to play him right away without any time to train. But that could prove important as it has given him a chance to find his rhythm.

"We hope to find the player this team needs - decisive, strong, good movement in the area."

Fellow striker Diego Costa is back in contention for the visit of Elche as Atleti aim to return to winning ways in LaLiga against an opponent they have defeated six games running, keeping a clean sheet in the last four of those.

The Spain international has featured just five times in all competitions this year due to injuries and a deep vein thrombosis diagnosis, which has kept him out since December 21.

"Diego trained [on Thursday] with the group and played about 20 minutes," Simeone said. "He looked well so [on Saturday] he will be with us. It is good news for him and of course the team.

"He brings something different, some added aggressiveness, which I hope he can show.

"We are having to adapt to what is happening, but with Diego I see a very positive guy who is mentally strong. We hope that when he is back on the field he can give us a lot."

Atleti's defeat to bitter rivals Real last week was their first in 27 league outings since February, a run that includes eight wins and two draws this season.

Key to the LaLiga leaders' form has been Marcos Llorente, who has been transformed into a more attack-minded player under Simeone.

Llorente thanked Simeone in an interview this week for helping to get the most out of him but the Argentine coach insists there is still more to come.

"Coaches are here to improve footballers," he said. "The biggest prize that we can win when we stop training, in addition to titles, is exceeded by the fact that footballers can say 'such a coach improved me'. 

"It is our requirement, to find how to empower our players and when we saw Marcos, when he played in training in the substitute team he always scored a goal. 

"One day, two, three, four... until I thought I had to play him in a position other than central midfield. We talked about it, we tried it, we looked for that space and that he believed it, which is the most complete. 

"We find ourselves with a humble and hard-working person and a football player in continuous growth, who has a lot to improve. You have to keep giving and improving."

Atletico will be without Ivo Grbic this weekend after the goalkeeper, who made his debut in the midweek Copa del Rey win over Cardassar, tested positive for coronavirus.

Jan Oblak has enjoyed seeing Atletico Madrid show another side to their play in recent weeks and is backing the unfortunate Diego Costa to make an impact upon his return.

Diego Simeone's squad sit on top of LaLiga and remain unbeaten in the Spanish top flight this season, raising expectations of a title push.

Their cause is aided by usual suspects Barcelona and Real Madrid suffering indifferent starts to their campaigns, albeit the latter sit only six points adrift of their neighbours ahead of Saturday's derby.

Still, Atleti go into the fixture on a seven-game winning run in the league, a period during which they have scored 15 goals and conceded just once.

Simeone has developed a more attacking style following the arrival of Luis Suarez, though they still remain a tough nut to crack. For Oblak, the key is adapting to the opponents.

"In the last seven league games we have shown another face that people are not used to," the Slovenia international - who has kept eight clean sheets in 10 league outings, saving 32 of the 34 shots he has faced - told Marca.

"With more possession, more chances, more time with the ball, which I like more.

"But for each team you prepare differently. You watch how you play, but also how your rival plays. The coach decides the best to take the game where he wants.

"No matter the players, the most important thing is the intensity and the desire to win. Against Madrid, against anyone. Only then can you get to the titles and where you want to go."

Joao Felix has led the way in terms of goals for Atletico, scoring eight in the league, while Suarez has contributed five since his switch from Barcelona.

Costa, in contrast, has managed just one goal in a season that so far has been blighted by injury, as well as time out of action due to coronavirus.

For Oblak, though, the Spain international remains a key member of Atleti's squad as they aim to compete at home and in Europe, having qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League in midweek.

"Diego has been unlucky this season. First with injury, then COVID. Now the complication, too," Oblak said.

"I'm sure he will help us, though. He is a special player. There are people who say that he cannot help, but whenever he is in the field he is dangerous.

"With him on the pitch you can expect things [to happen], like with Suarez.

"They are very important and I hope he returns as soon as possible. We need him. He's doing everything to get back 100 per cent from day one."

Atleti go into the derby looking for a first win in nine league games against their rivals, while an eighth successive LaLiga victory would be their best winning streak in the competition since 2014.

Atletico Madrid have completed the signing of Geoffrey Kondogbia from Valencia as their replacement for Thomas Partey.

Los Colchoneros lost Partey to Arsenal on October 5 and, although the transfer window has since shut, Atletico were given an extra month to find a replacement as the Ghanaian midfielder's release clause had been triggered.

As Atletico could only sign a free agent or a player already registered in LaLiga, their options were limited, but Kondogbia emerged as a likely target early on in their search.

The 27-year-old's fee has not been disclosed, but local media in Valencia suggest an initial €10million figure that could potentially double over the course of his contract, which runs through to 2024.

Valencia reportedly blocked the transfer from happening earlier and Kondogbia launched a scathing attack on the club's chairman Anil Murthy on October 15.

"Having already destroyed an ambitious project, you had to deceive your coach and, finally, me. Thank you, Anil Murthy," he wrote on Instagram.

Los Che have been in crisis in recent months, with Murthy and those in charge offloading a host of key first-team players in cut-price deals, including Ferran Torres, Rodrigo Moreno, Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin, the latter pair moving to local rivals Villarreal.

Coach Javi Gracia has also been at the centre of controversy – after seeing the club fail to live up to apparent promises with regards to recruitment, rumours suggested he was contemplating quitting after just a few months in the job.

However, it then emerged – according to Marca – that resigning would cost Gracia approximately €3million, and he remains in charge with Valencia 13th on eight points from as many games.

Kondogbia's move to Atletico will see him link up with Diego Costa, having been involved in ugly confrontation with the Spain international in 2013 when the midfielder played for Sevilla.

At the time, Costa denied racially abusing Kondogbia, who had been sent off late in the match for kicking out at the striker.

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