Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone insisted he loves "rebellious" players after praising Joao Felix's angry goal celebration.

Joao Felix – a club-record €126million signing in 2019 – came off the bench in the second half to seal a 2-0 win over Villarreal on Sunday as Atletico put their LaLiga title charge back on track.

The Portugal international looked unimpressed after scoring in the 69th minute – Joao Felix gesturing and shouting towards the Atletico bench – following Alfonso Pedraza's own goal.

Asked about the celebration, Simeone told reporters post-match:  "You'll have to ask him.

"He scored a great goal. He came on and did well in the second half... I love it when players rebel, when they look to be strong. We need him to be, he's an important player for us."

Simeone added: "I'll ask him in the next training session, and then I'll see if I tell you.

"I love it when players show pride. How long had it been since Joao scored? If players are rebellious, give them to me!"

Simeone, meanwhile, earned a place in Atletico's history books with Sunday's win over Villarreal.

The Argentine coach enjoyed his 308th victory in charge of the Spanish club – matching Luis Aragones as the Atletico head coach with the highest number of victories in all competitions.

Simeone's latest win came in his 512th match at the helm. Aragones, the only man to take charge of more games, reached 308 victories in 612 matches at a rate of 50.3 per cent.

"You know what this game is like," Simeone said when asked about the feat. "From tomorrow [Monday] we will start to live off what we do in the derby [against Real Madrid]. 

"It is an important victory, one does not stop to think about passing or not passing Luis, who is surely very happy about this moment of Atletico.

"We have a lot of things to improve and hopefully this week we can present a better version."

Diego Simeone earned a place in the Atletico Madrid history books with Sunday's win over Villarreal.

The Argentine coach enjoyed his 308th victory in charge of the club in Atletico's 2-0 LaLiga triumph.

An own goal from Alfonso Pedraza and a fine strike from Joao Felix secured the win, sending Atletico five points clear at the top of the table.

In so doing, Simeone matched the esteemed Luis Aragones as the Atletico head coach with the highest number of victories in all competitions.

Simeone's latest win came in his 512th match in charge. Aragones, the only man to take charge of more games, reached 308 wins in 612 matches at a rate of 50.3 per cent.

Atletico have drawn 120 times and lost only 84 games under Simeone, who took over on December 23 in 2011 and has since become the club's most successful coach.

TROPHIES

Aragones, a star for Atletico as a player, also won six trophies as head coach. Simeone, with seven, is the only man with more.

In a little over nine years in charge, the former Argentina midfielder has led Atletico to two UEFA Super Cups, two Europa Leagues, one Supercopa de Espana, one Copa del Rey and, most famously, their only LaLiga title in the past 25 years back in 2013-14.

Simeone has helped to tip the balance of power somewhat in Spain's capital. He is the only coach to have won three finals against Real Madrid in three different competitions: the Copa del Rey (2013), the Supercopa de Espana (2014) and the UEFA Super Cup (2018).

He has twice faced them in the Champions League final, too, losing after extra time in 2014 and on penalties two years later.

 

TRAILBLAZING

Among South American coaches, only Helenio Herrera (359) has taken charge of more LaLiga matches than Simeone (351).

All of those have been with Atletico, of course. There are just two coaches to oversee more LaLiga games at a single club: Aragones at Atletico (407) and Miguel Munoz at Real Madrid (424).

Munoz won 357 of his 605 games in charge of Los Blancos in all competitions, so Simeone has a little way to go to surpass that tally. Still, he has already won more games than Barcelona record-holder Johan Cruyff, who won 244 times out of 421 matches.

 

TITANS

Antoine Griezmann is the player to score the most goals under Simeone at Atletico, with 133 in all competitions.

The rest of the top five includes Diego Costa (75), Radamel Falcao (58), Koke (44) and Saul Niguez (43).

Koke leads the way for assists, with 95, comfortably clear of Griezmann (46), Gabi (44), Angel Correa (43) and Juanfran (32).

Atletico Madrid's LaLiga title charge is back on track after a 2-0 win over Villarreal at Estadio de la Ceramica on Sunday. 

Diego Simeone's side had picked up just five points from their previous four top-flight games to give rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona hope of reining them in at the summit. 

They secured a vital three points against Unai Emery's side, though, courtesy of Alfonso Pedraza's first-half own goal and substitute Joao Felix's second-half strike. 

The result meant Atleti restored their five-point advantage over second-place Barcelona, who have played a game more, while Real Madrid – who Los Rojiblancos face next weekend – are six points off the top in third.

Atleti were off the pace in the early stages, yet they forged ahead after 25 minutes in fortuitous circumstances. 

Stefan Savic's back-post header from Thomas Lemar's cross was kept out by Sergio Asenjo, but the ball rebounded into the net off the unlucky Pedraza – the goal ultimately given following a lengthy VAR review for a possible offside. 

A sprawling Jan Oblak denied Gerard Moreno soon after as Villarreal went in at the break behind despite having had nine shots to Atleti's three.

Asenjo superbly pawed over Luis Suarez's fierce strike shortly after the interval before getting down well to repel Angel Correa's deflected drive from distance.

Joao Felix wrapped up a vital triumph in the 69th minute, controlling the ball on his chest before arrowing a sumptuous half-volley into Asenjo's bottom-right corner from just inside the penalty area. 

Alex Baena struck the post from distance and forced Oblak into a wonderful save inside the final 10 minutes, but Atleti ultimately held on to take a significant stride towards a first title since the 2013-14 season.

 

 

Jan Oblak urged Atletico Madrid to remain positive after their recent wobble extended to a 1-0 defeat against Chelsea in the Champions League.

Oblak was beaten by OIivier Giroud's magnificent overhead kick in the 68th minute, while his opposite number Edouard Mendy did not have a shot to save over the course of the 90 minutes in Bucharest – Atleti's scheduled home leg having been rearranged to the Romanian capital due to coronavirus restrictions.

Atletico's famously robust defence is now without a clean sheet in eight outings, while their lead at the top of LaLiga is down to two points from Real Madrid after one win in four.

"It's football. Sometimes you have to win, other times lose," Oblak told reporters.

"We have another game left, we have to raise our heads, also in LaLiga and we have to prepare, be strong and improve game by game. 

"We can't think of anything other than going back [to winning]. Lately, things are going a bit against us."

Atletico return to LaLiga action with a tricky trip to Villarreal this weekend, while the subsequent derby against Real Madrid looks likely to be a pivotal moment in their season.

"It is a bad moment and on Sunday this is going to change," Oblak said.

"You have to think positively, the season is long with difficult moments and it is time to show that we are a strong group that is united.

"Only then will we get out of it."

Despite selecting a starting line-up featuring Joao Felix and Angel Correa in support of Luis Suarez and with Marcos Llorente and Thomas Lemar as wing-backs, Atleti boss Diego Simeone came in for criticism after the game for a perceived negative approach.

"The plan is always to defend well, no matter what the game plan is," Oblak added. "We didn’t play badly, we played fine.

"When I got back to the changing room, I saw everyone with their heads high, all convinced we're going to win.

"We can come back and we're still first in LaLiga."

When the team sheets landed, it looked like Diego Simeone might have thrown his bottomless reserves of menacing caution to the wind.

Atletico Madrid lined up to face Chelsea in the Champions League with Angel Correa and Joao Felix either side of Luis Suarez in attack.

Marcos Llorente – a goalscoring revelation from midfield both this season and, famously, at Anfield at the same stage of the 2019-20 tournament – was at right wing-back, with Thomas Lemar arguably an even more offensive option on the other flank.

Hold onto your hats or, at the very least, your dark overcoats.

By half-time, Atleti had managed no shots on target and one attempt on goal overall.

Despite inviting mirth such as that immediately above, Simeone's men did not start by manning the barricades.

Joao Felix scampered into a first-minute dribble, drawing a foul that saw Mason Mount collect the quickest booking in this season's Champions League and a ban for the second leg.

Goalkeeper Edouard Mendy's heavy touch nearly gifted a goal to Saul Niguez before Suarez mugged Kurt Zouma near the right byline and Lemar could not slide home the cross.

Those were uncomfortable moments for Chelsea, but they soon started to feel at home in a dubious 'away' game at Bucharest's Arena Nationala.

Thomas Tuchel has already stamped his mark all over this Blues side and they attempted 403 passes before the interval, over 100 more than any of Atletico's previous opponents in the first half of a Champions League game this season.

Atletico found themselves nudged, prodded and manoeuvred back into a familiar shell.

Jorginho became Joao Felix's latest victim, bringing down the Portugal forward to earn a caution and a ban, but Simeone talking himself into a yellow card after that moment of encouragement for his side suggested a state of fraught high-alert.

The Atleti boss paced in agitated fashion as he waited for the VAR decision that overturned an offside decision and awarded a splendid away-ish goal to Olivier Giroud – replays showing Mario Hermoso deliberately played the ball before the centre-forward's expert overhead kick.

Even when forced to chase the game, Atletico did not necessarily look more likely to score. Timo Werner tore forward on the break and thrashed into the side netting shortly after Joao Felix had been surprisingly removed.

Simeone has won deserved praise for loosening the shackles of his ridged 4-4-2 to embrace a more flexible 3-5-2 alternative this term. It was a switch that saw Los Rojiblancos rack up a commanding lead in LaLiga.

However, their most recent clean sheet is now eight matches ago and their domestic advantage has dwindled on the back of one win in four.

As Tuchel's Chelsea impressively kept them at arm's length, Atletico looked like a team dangerously caught between two stools at a terrible time to be in such a predicament.

Like in last season's quarter-final defeat to RB Leipzig, the favourite's tag weighed uneasily on Atletico – who are second only to Barcelona in terms of goals scored in LaLiga this season – and they became a more limp attacking proposition as the match wore on. Mendy concluded the 90 minutes untested.

Seemingly without the devilment of old, they were unable to drag Chelsea down to slug it out in the trenches with them. The Premier League team were an assured, moving target with no interest in grappling, much to Suarez's clear disappointment.

Simeone's best teams sometimes felt like they were nothing but edge and Atletico quickly need to rediscover some as a tough trip to Villarreal and a seemingly pivotal Madrid derby lie in wait. Maybe they will be relieved to have their backs to the wall once more.

Diego Simeone hopes Luis Suarez can use his goalscoring "gift" when Atletico Madrid face Chelsea in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Suarez is enjoying a fine season with Atletico, scoring 16 goals in 24 games in all competitions since joining from Barcelona.

However, he is without a goal or assist in four Champions League games this season. He has scored in each of his previous seven campaigns in the competition.

Atletico coach Simeone said the Uruguayan provided his team with a huge boost.

"For all competitions, not only the Champions League, Luis' presence generates hierarchy, generates confidence in our team and obviously a lot of attention in rivals because history joins a footballer that has a strong gift regarding his relationship with the goal," he told a news conference on Monday.

"So, I hope tomorrow we can play a good match as a team. And I insist about Chelsea, it is a great team and the new manager, who is very good, is making Chelsea play even better."

Due to coronavirus restrictions, the first leg of the last-16 tie will be played at the National Arena in Bucharest.

Simeone is wary of Chelsea, who are unbeaten in their seven games since Thomas Tuchel took over in January.

"We respect all opinions and we listen to everyone, but tomorrow we are facing a great team and the tie is very even," he said.

"We have been at the club for a long time and all of you know how we work – game by game and do our job."

Diego Simeone made no excuses after Atletico Madrid slumped to a 2-0 defeat to Levante and urged his side to respond to a first home loss since December 2019.

Atleti could have gone nine points clear at the top of LaLiga with a victory, but their 22-match unbeaten top-flight run at the Wanda Metropolitano was brought to a halt on Saturday.

A deflected first-half strike from Jose Luis Morales put Levante in front and Jorge de Frutos sealed a shock win right at the end when he found an empty net from long range with Jan Oblak up for a corner.

Real Madrid can cut their city rivals' advantage to only three points, albeit having played a game more, in the title race if they beat Real Valladolid later in the day.

Atleti had been held to a 1-1 draw at Levante three days earlier and endured more frustration at the hands of the same opponents, with Luis Suarez hitting the post with a stunning free-kick and Lucas Torreira having a goal ruled out.

Simeone says there is no need to reach for the panic button after watching his side lose in LaLiga for only the second time this season.

The Atleti boss said: "I'm not looking for excuses. Coaches have to find solutions. In the second half we did it and we have to be the ones who help the players who are out there.

"Championships are always the same, everyone has moments of difficulties. Those who are strong in the bad moments are the one who achieve their goals."

The former Argentina midfielder added: "When you look for a goal it is important to get there, it is wonderful.

"There are obstacles. It is logical to find obstacles and then when you achieve the goal you enjoy it much more."

There were positives for Simeone, as Moussa Dembele made his debut off the bench and Thomas Lemar returned after recovering from coronavirus.

However, Jose Gimenez was withdrawn with a muscular injury three days before Atleti face Chelsea in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone believes any club signing Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland would become a "super team".

Paris Saint-Germain star Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund forward Haaland have been linked to numerous European giants.

Real Madrid have been credited with an interest in both and coach Zinedine Zidane talked up the duo's talent on Friday.

Simeone feels the pair could work together, and said they could create an incredible team.

"They are two great players who have different characteristics. They can be compatible playing together," he told a news conference.

"And the team who can afford to have them both together, they would have a super team."

Atletico are six points clear atop LaLiga and have a game in hand ahead of hosting Levante on Saturday.

Diego Simeone does not believe Atletico Madrid's 1-1 draw at Levante was the result of nervousness at being favourites for the LaLiga title.

Atletico are six points clear of Real Madrid with a game in hand but they will be disappointed that the advantage is not eight after spurning several chances on Wednesday.

The visitors fell behind to Enis Bardhi's 17th-minute opener before Marcos Llorente levelled matters with a deflected long-range effort.

Simeone's men were in the ascendancy thereafter and Angel Correa should have put them in front shortly after the second-half restart.

However, he blazed over an open goal with a remarkable miss, but Simeone believes a point apiece was a fair outcome for two teams that will meet again on Saturday.

"No, I don't think it [being favourites] can generate nervousness," Simeone replied when asked if nerves were to blame.

"We find ourselves with a tough opponent who is doing things well. They have improved defensively, well organised and with good ball output.

"In the second half we came out well, we had very clear chances. A fair draw for two teams that played a good game.

"We didn't have to win and we could have lost it in the shot from the end from [Carlos] Clerc."

Joao Felix is back in contention for Atletico Madrid after being sidelined with coronavirus, Diego Simeone has confirmed.

It was confirmed Portugal international Joao Felix tested positive for the virus on February 3, forcing him to miss two games for LaLiga's leaders.

The first was a 2-2 draw at home to Celta Vigo, who netted a late equaliser, before Atleti beat Granada 2-1 in Andalusia on Saturday to stay five points clear at the summit with two games in hand on second-placed Real Madrid.

Moussa Dembele, Thomas Lemar and Hector Herrera were all confirmed as having the virus in the five days after Joao Felix's results were returned, but the situation has had minimal impact on the team's on-field performances.

Up next is a trip to Levante on Wednesday, before hosting Paco Lopez's men at the weekend, and that is followed by the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Chelsea.

Simeone is unsure if Joao Felix will feature on Wednesday but was glad to have him back.

"He has not had many symptoms that left him unable to train at home, so he was working with the coaches since the fourth day [of his absence]," Simeone told reporters.

"He is eager and enthusiastic, he is healthy. It's great to be able to count on him tomorrow, but we will decide tomorrow what to do with him."

Attention soon turned to Atletico's other key attacker this term, Luis Suarez, who has recently been the subject of reports claiming the Uruguayan has a clause in his contract that would allow him to leave on a free transfer at the end of the season.

Simeone seemed unimpressed he was even asked the question.

"Normally I don't talk about personal contracts," Simeone said.

"I talk about how to attack, how to play, but I don't interfere in personal matters."

Diego Simeone praised the development of Marcos Llorente after the midfielder helped Atletico Madrid secure a 2-1 victory over Granada. 

Atleti extended their lead at the top of LaLiga to eight points thanks to Angel Correa's deflected winner on Saturday. 

Llorente provided the assist for Correa having opened the scoring himself with a neat finish in the 63rd minute, taking his tally of league goals for the season to seven. 

The 26-year-old – signed primarily to play as a defensive midfielder in 2019 from rivals Real Madrid – scored his first goal for Atleti in a 2-2 draw with Valencia on February 14 last year. 

He has now netted 13 times in all competitions in total for the club, while his tally of 10 league goals since getting off the mark puts him behind only Luis Suarez (16) for Simeone's squad. 

Llorente has averaged a goal every 237 minutes in LaLiga over the last 12 months, as well as providing 10 assists and creating 35 chances. Only Koke, who moved level with Tomas Renones for second place on the list for appearances in all competitions for Atletico, has created more (41).

With his opener against Granada, Llorente became the midfielder in LaLiga with the most direct goal involvements so far this season, so it was hardly surprising when Simeone spoke glowingly of the Spain international's desire to transform himself into an all-round attacking threat. 

"As coaches, titles are wonderful, because they fill you with excitement and glory," Simeone told a news conference. 

"But when you work with a footballer and see his growth reflected, you feel more joy and more enthusiasm to continue advancing in this profession.  

"When we see a footballer with the ability to do different things than what he had been doing in his career, we jump into it. It happened to us with Griezmann, with Saul, with Juanfran. 

"Why is it happening? I would like to look for the images of Marcos training when he was not even playing, when in practice he scored a lot of goals, we joked that he was going to have to play higher [up the pitch]. 

"We put him up front and now I think in the middle is where feels more at ease." 

While Llorente delivered the goods on Saturday, LaLiga's leading scorer Suarez had an off day in front of goal, landing only one of his four attempts on target, though he was unfortunate to hit the crossbar in the second half. 

"We always ask all the boys who have played as strikers in our team for collaboration and effort for the team," Simeone said. 

"Luis, beyond what he generates with his goals, has a lot of intelligence. He knows where to apply pressure, where to bother the rival, generate doubts and we need everyone."

Diego Simeone insisted he had "no problem" with Atletico Madrid's Champions League home clash against Chelsea being moved to Bucharest.

The first leg of the last-16 tie will be played at the Arena Nationala on February 23 due to coronavirus restrictions.

Atletico coach Simeone had no complaints, saying his team were prepared to play anywhere.

"I don't think it's important to give an opinion because the opinion we might say won't influence on what the reality is. And because we are living a complex moment globally, from a social point of view, it is already difficult to compete and do our job," he told a news conference.

"We will prepare and enjoy what we have. To play anywhere, any time, the day they want.

"There is no problem."

Atletico are five points clear atop LaLiga and have played two fewer games than second-placed rivals Real Madrid.

They are unbeaten in their past 20 LaLiga games (15 wins and five draws) against Granada, who they visit on Saturday.

Simeone has managed 14 LaLiga games against Granada without defeat. Only against Getafe (16) has he managed more in the competition without defeat.

But Simeone is wary of Granada, who are eighth in the table and have lost just two of their 11 LaLiga home games this season.

"We play against Granada and the only thing that keep us busy is to resolve this match. Granada is a team that does very well at their stadium," he said.

"They compete really well as everyone could see in the Copa del Rey and Europa League. It's a combative team and their coach has his ideas very clear. He can play with different systems. That is what keep us busy today."

Diego Simeone insists there are plenty of positives to take from Monday's 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo despite the disappointment of conceding an 89th-minute equaliser. 

Los Rojiblancos looked set to restore their 10-point lead over Barcelona and Real Madrid at LaLiga's summit after a Luis Suarez brace overturned Santi Mina's opener for Celta. 

They were denied a ninth consecutive top-flight win, however, when substitute Facundo Ferreyra - making his debut after joining from Benfica on transfer deadline day - bundled home from close range late on. 

Despite that late blow, Atleti still have an eight-point lead at the top of the table and boast a game in hand on their rivals.

They are unbeaten in 22 home league games - their best run in the competition since a 22-match streak between September 2015 and October 2016 - while their tally of 51 points after 20 games is their best at this stage of the season since they last won the league in 2013-14.

Simeone refused to be too harsh on his side after Ferreyra's late leveller and felt there were plenty of plus points to take into next weekend's game at Granada.

"It is normal that during the season, with the number of games there are, things will happen like this," he told a news conference.

"Today, we continue on our way, match by match, and I am left with many positive things that were taken from negative things. 

"Some players came in, took their opportunity, and played very good games, such as [Renan] Lodi, [Geoffrey] Kondogbia and [Lucas] Torreira. Those are important things for the future.

"It was a difficult start for us. They played well. I think there were not many chances in the first half for anyone, but they did feel more comfortable with possession. 

"In the second half we improved with the change of system to have one more in the middle and take one from behind. Kondogbia and Torreira managed to press higher."

Suarez's latest double took his tally to 16 goals in his first 17 league games for Atleti, overtaking Cristiano Ronaldo as the fastest player to reach 16 goals for the same club in the competition in the 21st century.

Those goals have secured 12 points for Atleti this season - more than any other player in the league. 

Simeone knew exactly what he was getting when he signed Suarez from Barcelona ahead of the 2020-21 season and the Atleti boss says his side tries to play to the Uruguay international's strengths.

"It [Suarez's record] speaks for itself," he added. "He always scored goals, it's not just now that he does. 

"We try to enhance everything he brought and bring him closer to the area. Let's all hope we continue growing as a team."

Thomas Lemar and Hector Herrera are the latest Atletico Madrid players to test positive for coronavirus.

Atletico confirmed last week that Joao Felix and new signing Moussa Dembele returned positive test results in consecutive days, ruling them out of Monday's LaLiga visit of Celta Vigo.

Now their midfield and attacking options have been further depleted, with Herrera and Lemar immediately beginning periods of isolation.

A club statement read: "Our players Hector Herrera and Thomas Lemar underwent antigen tests prior to the match against Celta Vigo according to the LaLiga protocol, giving a positive result for COVID-19, which was later confirmed with the relevant tests PCR.

"Both players remain isolated in their respective homes, strictly complying with the recommendations of the health authorities and LaLiga protocol."

Atletico did not provide any further information regarding their respective conditions.

Lemar and Herrera could miss as many as three games, with Atletico facing Celta, Granada and Levante in the next 10 days.

Joao Felix has tested positive for COVID-19, adding to Diego Simeone's problems ahead of Atletico Madrid's meeting with Celta Vigo.

Portugal international Joao Felix is self-isolating at home, as team-mates Mario Hermoso and Yannick Carrasco have been doing since Friday.

A brief Atletico statement read: "Joao Felix has tested positive for COVID-19. The striker is isolating at home, in compliance with the health authorities' guidelines and LaLiga protocols."

Simeone's men have a 10-point advantage at the top of LaLiga and welcome Celta to the Wanda Metropolitano on Monday. They then travel to Granada the following Saturday.

Hermoso and Carrasco are unlikely to return for the meeting with Celta, while Kieran Trippier will be absent due to suspension.

Joao Felix marked his return to the starting line-up against Valencia on January 24 by scoring his first goal in almost two months and setting up another, leading Atletico from a goal down to a 3-1 victory.

The 21-year-old has been left out of the first XI eight times in LaLiga this season and Atletico have won all those matches.

However, when Joao Felix starts they average two more shots (12.1 to 10.0) and their goals-per-game ratio improves from 1.9 to 2.3.

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