Diego Simeone called upon his Atletico Madrid players to be "constantly prepared" going into the second half of the season and warned of the "traps" that lie in store as they aim to win their first LaLiga title since 2014.

Luis Suarez scored in the 90th minute to earn Simeone's men a 2-1 victory over Deportivo Alaves on Sunday, extending their domestic winning streak to four matches and moving them two points clear of nearest rivals Real Madrid, who have played two games more.

Asked to assess his side's performance after 15 games of the season, Simeone said he expects the challenge of staying at the top of the table to be one of increasing difficulty.

"We understand that the league is complex," Simeone told reporters. "It is difficult, it has traps, you have to be constantly prepared.

"You cannot leave room to relax, because all the teams want to win. We are going to start the second round shortly and it will not be with the same calm that one perhaps plays the first round.

"The second round will be tougher, with the teams that want to save themselves and those that want to fight to enter the Europa League and the Champions League. It alerts us to the fact that the only way to play is match-by-match."

Suarez provided the assist for Atletico's opener, scored by Marcos Llorente, and the visitors were given a further boost when Victor Laguardia was sent-off after 63 minutes.

But Alaves levelled the match six minutes from time when Felipe put into his own net, only for Suarez to come up with a late winner.

Simeone expressed his satisfaction with the way his side ended the game, picking out second-half substitutes Saul Niguez and Joao Felix for praise.

"The most beautiful thing about tonight was how the game ended," said Simeone. "Not getting nervous, looking to play together.

"And the goal was a great goal, a very good play by Saul with [Thomas] Lemar and Joao, defining the nine where it should be.

"I understood that the game lasts 90 minutes and having important players also waiting for what might happen is a useful strategy.

"Obviously, Joao came on and played very well and that is what makes me happy, same as Saul - he entered very well and that makes me very happy too.

"I'm very happy for a victory that we worked very hard for."

Atletico Madrid returned to the summit of LaLiga as Luis Suarez's dramatic 90th-minute goal sealed a 2-1 win over Deportivo Alaves on Sunday. 

Diego Simeone's side dropped to second following Real Madrid's 2-0 win over Celta Vigo on Saturday, but a fourth consecutive top-flight victory restored a two-point advantage over their city rivals with still two games in hand. 

Marcos Llorente put the visitors ahead after 41 minutes with his latest long-range effort – his five from outside the penalty area since the beginning of 2020 more than any other LaLiga player. 

Alaves brushed off Victor Laguardia's 63rd-minute red card to pull level six minutes from time through Felipe's outrageous own goal, but Suarez popped up at the death to snatch a memorable win for Los Rojiblancos. 

 

Atletico Madrid consolidated top spot in LaLiga with a 1-0 home win over Getafe on Wednesday in head coach Diego Simeone's 500th game in charge in all competitions.

Simeone's milestone match came against his favourite opponents, having now won 16 out of 18 matches against neighbours Getafe without conceding - the other two being goalless draws.

Luis Suarez put Atleti in front with his eighth goal in his first 11 league games for the club, equalling Radamel Falcao's record for the most prolific Rojiblancos start this century.

Atleti could not add to their tally but safely held on to move three points clear of Real Madrid, who have played a game more and are in action against Elche later on Wednesday.

The visitors were given a let off after 14 minutes as Thomas Lemar fired an angled shot against the frame of the goal as he attempted to catch out Ruben Yanez.

But Getafe, who ended an 11-match wait for an away league win last time out on their travels, could not hold out for much longer as Suarez glanced in Yannick Carrasco's delivery.

Suarez guided over from 15 yards soon after but a bigger chance went begging for Angel Rodriguez at the other end, the forward heading straight at Jan Oblak from close range.

Oblak was called into action again just before the hour mark to keep out Jaime Mata's header with a routine stop, while Carrasco was thwarted by Yanez down low in a second half of minimal chances.

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.

Lionel Messi has been encouraged by Ronald Koeman's impact since becoming Barcelona coach but feels the club is so financially crippled that "it will be difficult to get back where it was".

Messi was speaking to La Sexta in one of his first interviews since telling the club of his desire to leave in August. 

Barca stood firm back then, refusing to allow him to depart despite Messi insisting the get-out clause in his contract was still valid – the Argentinian ultimately opted against pursuing the matter any further. 

Although he stayed put, Messi's future and mindset have been constant sources of debate in the four months since. 

The highly publicised interview, which aired in full on Sunday, saw Messi vow not to decide on his future until the end of the season despite being able to discuss a free transfer with another club in less than a week. 

And while there are plenty of fans unimpressed by Koeman's start with the club - they sit fifth after 14 games - Messi was complimentary about the Dutchman. 

"I think that with Ronald Koeman, he has projected a seriousness and an idea of what he wants for his team and what he wants for the club," Messi said. 

"I think that it was a great success and that he is doing things very well. At the beginning it was difficult because there were a lot of new people, a lot of young players, but little by little the team is growing." 

One aspect that some believe could count in Barca's favour with respect to Messi's future is the fact a new president will be in place by the end of January, with Joan Laporta the favourite to succeed Josep Maria Bartomeu and take charge for a second time. 

But Messi certainly does not envy anyone stepping into such a position, given the state of Barca financially, and suggested fans should not get their hopes up about the prospect of Neymar returning. 

"For this [the club's finances] it is a difficult time for the club, as it is everyone," he continued. "But from what we know, the club is really bad [financially] – very bad. It will be difficult to get back where it was.

"It won't be easy for the new president because they will find a very difficult situation at the club. It won't be easy to turn it around. 

"I hope whoever wins [the election] does things well to put this great club where it deserves to be - and where it isn't at the moment. 

"It will also be difficult to bring players because we need money and there is no money. There are several important players [required] to fight again for everything, and those players you have to pay them big money. 

"I was laughing because you said Neymar must be very expensive. And how do you pay PSG for that transfer?" 

Messi then also hit out once again at Barca's "crazy" decision to let Luis Suarez leave to Atletico Madrid, whom he has helped to the top of LaLiga. 

"I had already decided [I wanted to leave] before that," Messi mused.

"But it did seem crazy to me what they did with Luis, speaking in the specific case of Luis, because of how things were done, because of how he left, and because he left for free, paying him for the remaining years of his contract and giving him to a team that was going to fight for the same titles as us."

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.

Diego Simeone is confident any issues with Joao Felix and Luis Suarez will be addressed after the pair reacted badly to being substituted in Saturday's Madrid derby.

Neither Atletico Madrid forward played the full 90 minutes of the 2-0 defeat to Real Madrid, a result that ended a club-record 26-game unbeaten LaLiga run going back to last season.

Joao Felix was replaced on the hour mark, just before Jan Oblak's own goal took the game away from Atleti.

The Portugal forward failed to muster a shot or create a chance, making no touches of the ball in the Madrid penalty area.

Suarez was little better, seeing his only effort blocked and completing a meagre 10 passes before following his strike partner off the pitch with 17 minutes remaining.

The pair were each replaced by midfielders – Saul Niguez and Geoffrey Kondogbia – and made their frustration clear as they returned to the bench.

But speaking ahead of Wednesday's Copa del Rey trip to Cardassar, coach Simeone was not concerned by their dissatisfaction.

"We have been here for nine years and what we have to talk about will happen internally," he said. "The best way to resolve situations is by talking and obviously we talk."

Saul had Atleti's best attempt after replacing Joao Felix, seeing a close-range header well saved by Thibaut Courtois, but the Spain international is struggling this season.

He has yet to register a goal or assist, while his duel success rate is at a career-low 41.9 per cent and he is also averaging fewer recoveries per 90 minutes (5.1) than in any prior LaLiga season.

"He is not having his best moment," Simeone said. "I have no doubt that for us he is a very important player.

"He has competed since he joined the team as a young man. He has always been important and this year it will not be different.

"He is working to improve. He is strong; we will see the Saul we all know again."

The Copa game against Cardassar may provide opportunities for players such as Saul to rediscover some form.

"There are players who are waiting to have those minutes and each one will make the best use of it," Simeone said. "When Atletico Madrid play, they must be represented in the best possible way."

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone revealed his admiration for city rivals Real Madrid ahead of Saturday's LaLiga derby.

Madrid welcome neighbours and LaLiga leaders Atletico to Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, with Simeone's men holding a one-point advantage over Real Sociedad atop the table.

Defending champions Madrid are six points off the pace and while Atletico have only lost one of their last eight derbies in LaLiga, keeping seven clean sheets, Simeone is wary of an experienced Los Blancos side.

"It is a nice game where there are fantastic football players in both teams. Real Madrid has been competing at the highest level for many years," Simeone told reporters.

"As I said yesterday [Thursday], I feel admiration for our opponent and the players they have. They are maintaining a great level despite the amount of time they have been on top. Some of them they are 33, 34 or 35 and they are still young in their minds.

"That's the most important thing. And this is something to admire, even if it is an historic rival for us.

"We are keeping our way, leading the game in the areas where we can hurt them. And there, we will be playing a game which surely will be beautiful."

Atletico have failed to win in their last eight LaLiga games against Madrid – drawing five games and losing three – after winning four of the previous six against their rivals in the competition.

But Atletico have won their last seven LaLiga games, keeping a clean sheet in six matches – last winning eight or more in a row in the competition in March-April 2014.

After winning his first LaLiga game as coach against Atletico's Simeone in February 2016), Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane is unbeaten in his last six games against the Argentinian in the league.

As for Atletico forward Luis Suarez, he has scored nine goals in his 11 LaLiga games against Madrid but has failed to score in his last two, his longest run without scoring against the Spanish powerhouse in the competition.

"Every footballer has ups and down," Simeone said of Suarez. "We shouldn't forget Luis has gone through coronavirus. I think his last game was in Ecuador… around twenty days with no competition. So, it is normal he needs time to get back to his best.

"Luis is a very important player for us. A striker who has goals in his DNA. Saturday is an important game for him and for the team. So, hopefully he can give his best during the time he is on the pitch."

Diego Simeone is hopeful Thomas Lemar can grow in confidence after ending his goalscoring drought in Atletico Madrid's 2-0 win over Real Valladolid.

The France international scored for the first time in 45 club matches in a run stretching back to April 2019 with his finish from a tight angle in Saturday's LaLiga clash.

Lemar's rare strike gave Atleti a platform to build on as they wrapped up a seventh straight league win through Marcos Llorente's well-taken goal.

Simeone has regularly defended the form of Lemar in recent weeks and hopes the 25-year-old, a €60million signing from Monaco in 2018, can now rediscover his confidence.

"The goal makes me very happy," he told Movistar. "He has been working for a long time to show what a footballer he can be and what he possesses inside.

"Hopefully this goal will help generate some confidence so he can keep his place in the side and reach his goals for the club.

"There are many games to play so the better the group is in general the better we can compete."

As well as scoring Atleti's important breakthrough goal 11 minutes into the second half, Lemar also created more chances (three) than any home player.

Lemar insisted he has never questioned his own ability and is grateful to have received Simeone's backing.

"I am very happy to have scored. It was important for me because it's been a while since my last one," he said. "Most of all I'm happy for the team because we played well.

"I have no doubts about myself – I know my quality. Criticism is a part of football so you have to have a strong head.

"Simeone knows my quality and he always wants to bring out the best in me. Today was good for me and for the team, but now we have to keep on working hard."

Atletico managed just one attempt on target in a first half that Valladolid, previously unbeaten in three games, edged at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Llorente's introduction at half-time, plus the arrivals of Koke and Joao Felix before the hour, made a huge difference as Atletico moved top of LaLiga with a sixth home league win in a row in this fixture.

Luis Suarez returned to Atletico's starting line-up after missing their last four matches with coronavirus but struggled to make much of an impact in his 63 minutes on the pitch.

The 33-year-old wasted a big chance early on when failing to round Jordi Masip and found the target from just one of his five shots, but Simeone expects the striker to soon regain his rhythm.

"Suarez has been out for two long weeks, since playing against Ecuador, so it has been a while since he was last on the field," Simeone said.

"He played longer than I expected. I'm sure those minutes will help him for what is to come because we need a lot from Luis."

Atletico, still yet to trail in a single LaLiga game this season, head to Real Madrid next weekend following Wednesday's trip to Salzburg in the Champions League.

Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici is facing a criminal investigation following allegations of irregularities when Luis Suarez took an Italian citizenship exam.

The Public Prosecutor's Office in Perugia declared in September, when Juventus were looking to sign Suarez from Barcelona, that it was looking at claims a mark for the test may have been pre-agreed.

Perugia's finance police had already been in the process of investigating the University for Foreigners in Perugia when they raised concerns about the exam undertaken by Uruguayan Suarez.

Juventus wanted Suarez to secure Italian citizenship to ensure they did not exceed the permitted quota of non-EU players in their squad.

Suarez eventually joined Atletico Madrid instead, and Juventus have denied any wrongdoing.

In a statement issued on Friday, the Turin-based club said: "Juventus Football Club confirms that today Fabio Paratici has been notified of information regarding the guarantee and the right of defence.

"The crime alleged by the Public Prosecutor's Office at the Court of Perugia is exclusively Article 371 bis of the Criminal Code."

That article is titled 'False information to the prosecutor or the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court'.

Juventus added: "The club strongly reiterates the correctness of Paratici's work and is confident that the ongoing investigations will help clarify his position within a reasonable time."

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone insists his focus is on beating Real Valladolid this weekend and not on the prospect of overtaking Real Sociedad at the summit of LaLiga. 

Atleti are the only side in the Spanish top flight to have not suffered defeat yet this season, a start which has them one place and a point behind leaders Real Sociedad, who have played two games more. 

Atleti have also conceded just two goals in their nine league games, the joint-lowest total at this stage of the season in LaLiga's history.

Given Atleti's superb recent record over Saturday's visitors to the Wanda Metropolitano – they have won nine of their last 10 games against Pucela – many expect Los Colchoneros to leapfrog La Real into top spot before Imanol Alguacil's men visit Deportivo Alaves on Sunday. 

Simeone is refusing to get carried away, though, and does not think his side will have it all their own way against Valladolid, who have picked up seven points from their previous three LaLiga games after earning just three points in their first eight outings.

"We understand that Real Sociedad are having a very good season," he told a media conference. 

"But now we are concerned about Valladolid. The coach has improved the team and found players who can do what he wants well and know how to play his game.

"The team has been representing him very well in the last three games."

Simeone will be able to call upon the services of Luis Suarez again after the Uruguayan returned a negative coronavirus test.

The former Barcelona forward missed Atletico's last four matches after he contracted COVID-19 while away on international duty last month.

Suarez had been in fine form for Atletico, with five goals in his first six LaLiga appearances.

The striker's 1.2 goals per 90 minutes is the highest of any player in the division to have played at least three matches, with Valencia's Manu Vallejo (1.02) next best.

Simeone will make a late call on the 33-year-old's fitness, but he is excited at the prospect of him linking up again with Atleti's array of attacking midfielders. 

"The characteristics of Luis are known to everyone," he said. "We have to maintain the form that we showed in recent games, which is to keep pressure on the goal. 

"We have players who are good at arriving from midfield and we will add Luis' characteristics to our team's play."

It remains to be seen if Yannick Carrasco will join Suarez in the squad after the Belgian suffered a knee injury in the midweek Champions League draw with Bayern Munich. 

The club released a statement on Friday saying he could not train and that his condition would continue to be monitored.

Luis Suarez will resume training with his Atletico Madrid team-mates on Friday after the club announced he has returned a negative coronavirus test.

The Uruguay international has missed Atletico's last four matches after he contracted COVID-19 while away on international duty last month.

In his absence Atletico have won two LaLiga matches 1-0 – including against his former club Barcelona – and drawn Champions League games 0-0 and 1-1 against Lokomotiv Moscow and Bayern Munich respectively.

Suarez's match fitness will be assessed by head coach Diego Simeone to determine whether the 33-year-old can feature in Atletico's league fixture at home to Real Valladolid on Saturday.

"Luis Suarez will join the group training sessions of the first team tomorrow after having tested negative in the official LaLiga PCR test," read a statement from Atletico on Thursday.

"The Uruguayan, after overcoming COVID-19 and complying with all health protocols, is reintegrated into the group and will be under Diego Simeone's control again."

Suarez had been in fine form for Atletico this season with five goals in his first six LaLiga appearances since he joined from Barca for a nominal fee in September.

The striker's 1.2 goals per 90 minutes is the highest of any player in the division to have played at least three matches, with Valencia's Manu Vallejo (1.02) next best.

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