Diego Simeone says Atletico Madrid's latest LaLiga title success feels particularly special in a year complicated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Atleti beat Real Valladolid 2-1 at Estadio Jose Zorrilla on Saturday to finish two points above Real Madrid, who themselves completed a turnaround by the same scoreline against Villarreal.

It is Atleti's 11th title and their second in nine years under Simeone, on top of winning two Europa Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups, the Copa del Rey and Supercopa de Espana.

That sees Simeone overtake Luis Aragones (seven trophies) as the Spanish side's most successful ever coach.

Atleti were top for 30 matchdays and, despite being given a scare by Madrid and Barcelona in the closing weeks, Simeone feels his side are deserving champions in what has been a tough year for everyone off the field.

"It has been a complicated year," Simeone told Movistar+. "It's one of the best years to be champions. I'm happy for a lot of people. 

"Many people have been lost to the virus. For Atletico to be champions is a different feeling.

"The two league titles we have won come with different feelings. The world is experiencing a bad situation and I hope that we have given a lot of people some joy.

"Spending as long as we did on top is huge. I'm grateful, especially to those who played less than others. We stuck to our goals throughout."

Long-serving boss Simeone, who has also guided Atleti to a couple of Champions League finals, hinted earlier this season he may soon seek a new challenge.

The 51-year-old accepts that his training methods can take their toll on players but can see a bright future for Atleti going forward as he hinted at a longer stay.

"I've no doubts that people can get tired, but I'm very hard-headed," he said. "I knew and know that this club can keep growing and I hope it will continue like this.

"The club have done incredible work. Miguel [Angel Gil Marin], Enrique [Cerezo] and all of the unseen people have given us stability beyond results. They've always wanted this.

"They're not here celebrating, but soon we'll all embrace."

Oscar Plano gave relegated Valladolid a shock half-time lead against Atletico, but Angel Correa's stunning solo effort – the Argentine's 20th direct goal involvement for Atleti across all competitions in 2020-21 – equalised before Suarez's winner.

Suarez's 21 top-flight goals have been worth 21 points to Atleti this season, more than any other LaLiga player, and Simeone was quick to praise both of his forwards, who have kept big-money signing Joao Felix out of the side during the run-in.

"I've been saying that Angel has needed a goal for a long time," Simeone said. "It makes me happy that he's been called up by the [Argentina] national team.

"As for Suarez, I said before that his surname speaks for itself!"

Atletico Madrid claimed their 11th LaLiga title as Angel Correa and Luis Suarez inspired a 2-1 comeback victory over Real Valladolid on a tense final day of 2020-21.

With second-placed Real Madrid facing Villarreal, Diego Simeone's men needed a win to guarantee the title, but their hopes hung in the balance when Oscar Plana put relegation-battling Valladolid ahead.

But Correa's superb solo effort restored parity, with a glaring miss from Shon Weissman at the other end setting the stage for Suarez to complete the turnaround.

Madrid produced a late turnaround to win 2-1 but finished two points behind their city rivals in the table.

The pressure on Atleti's shoulders was reflected in a frantic start from the league leaders, with Suarez and Saul Niguez snatching at efforts before Valladolid struck.

In the 18th minute, a breakdown in Atleti's attack resulted in Marcos de Sousa feeding Plano who, after just keeping himself ahead of a glut of chasing defenders, slotted coolly beyond Jan Oblak.

Jawad El Yamiq nearly handed Atleti a reprieve with what would have been a calamitous own goal, and with Weissman having squandered a chance to double Valladolid's lead, Suarez went close after the restart, only for Saidy Janko to clear the Uruguayan's goal-bound header.

Yet the pressure finally told in the 57th minute.

It looked like the chance to shoot had gone when Correa took a heavy touch, yet nifty footwork created space between four defenders and the Argentine prodded a brilliant finish low into the right-hand corner.

Valladolid seemed all set to restore their lead just after the hour, only for Weissman to again miss a golden opportunity, heading over a gaping goal after Oblak had parried Lucas Olaza's strike.

Atleti made Valladolid pay, Suarez pouncing on Michel's sloppy pass to race clear and curl home the decisive blow, clinching Simeone's second LaLiga crown and condemning the hosts to the second tier.

Barcelona showed they knew how to suffer in order to beat Real Valladolid, much to the satisfaction of boss Ronald Koeman.

Ousmane Dembele's 90th-minute strike gave the Blaugrana a 1-0 victory over their relegation-threatened opponents at Camp Nou, cutting the gap to leaders Atletico Madrid to a solitary point.

Real Madrid are up next in El Clasico this weekend, with a thrilling three-way title battle looking set to go to the wire.

If any team looks capable of pulling clear it is Barca, who have won 13 and drawn one in LaLiga in 2021, although they were far from their fluent best for long periods on Monday – something Koeman acknowledged.

"You have to know how to suffer in all the games, we knew how to do it. So yes, we deserved to win," he told reporters.

"It is true that we have not been at the level of the last games , but it is normal that sometimes games like this happen.

"I think we lacked a bit of freshness, it could be because of the international break. So yes, we are now able to win our games and be champions."

That Barca's title destiny is now in their hands owes much to France winger Dembele, who is enjoying his most consistent run of form and fitness since a big-money 2017 switch from Borussia Dortmund in 2017.

"Of course he is an important player, he has shown it today with his game, he has given us the points," Koeman said.

"His form this year is very good. Physically he has improved a lot and that has been the key to his consistency.

"I would like him to stay with us."

After the match, Barcelona announced Philippe Coutinho has undergone a successful meniscus procedure.

The playmaker has not featured in 2021 due to his knee injury.

Ousmane Dembele's struggles for fitness and form at Barcelona are deservedly coming right at the perfect time, according to team-mate Clement Lenglet.

Barca looked set to be held to a frustrating 0-0 draw at home to Real Valladolid on Monday before Dembele volleyed a 90th-minute winner – victory closing Ronald Koeman's side to within a point of leaders Atletico Madrid with nine games of the LaLiga season remaining.

Since moving to Camp Nou from Borussia Dortmund for an initial €105million in 2017, the 23-year-old France winger has been beset by injury problems.

But Dembele has become an increasingly integral member of Koeman's team since the turn of the year, forming a fruitful attacking alliance with Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann.

Griezmann was substituted against Valladolid and Messi was frustrated by former team-mate Jordi Masip in the visitors' goal, leaving Dembele to step forward as the hero.

"It doesn't surprise me," Lenglet told LaLiga TV. "He couldn't play a lot of games because of injuries and now it looks like everything is calm in that respect.

"When he is physically well he's a very good dribbler, he's got two good feet, a lot of speed. He gives us a lot.

"I'm very happy for him because he's worked hard for this and he deserves it."

Dembele was also involved in the game's other key moment, when Valladolid midfielder Oscar Plano was sent off for bring him down in the 79th minute.

Although Plano's challenge was unquestionably cynical, the red card came as a surprise to his team-mates.

Nevertheless, Lenglet felt the punishment fitted the crime.

"The red card was [decided] very quick," he said. "Ousmane took a very hard foul from behind, that's why the ref sanctioned him in that way.

"I think the card is deserved because of the foul from behind."

Next up for Barcelona is a crunch Clasico clash at Real Madrid on Saturday, with their bitter rivals two points behind them in third as an intriguing title race reaches boiling point.

"It's proved this league is very difficult. We’ve got to fight to win every game," Lenglet added.

"It's the fruit of our hard work these results. We've worked very hard in these last few months, things are going better for us but there's a long way to go."

Ousmane Dembele thumped in a 90th-minute winner as Barcelona beat Real Valladolid 1-0 and cut Atletico Madrid's advantage at the top of LaLiga to a solitary point.

Ronald Koeman's resurgent side had won their previous five top-flight matches but were short of their best for much of the first half, with Kenan Kodro hitting the crossbar for Valladolid.

Lionel Messi and his team-mates tried to crank through the gears in the second half but struggled to find a breakthrough, even after Oscar Plano was sent off 11 minutes from time for a cynical foul on Dembele.

The France winger would have the final word, swiping home on the volley after Ronald Araujo made a nuisance of himself on the end of Frenkie de Jong's cross - setting up next weekend's pivotal Clasico showdown perfectly.

Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen was back in action for the first time since Germany's humiliating 2-1 defeat to North Macedonia and he was relieved to see Kodro's header cannon to safety off the bar.

Messi won a free-kick in the 15th minute and clipped wide but the visitors continued to acquit themselves well.

Roque Mesa grazed the top of the netting with a speculative strike before Barca let the playmaker run unchallenged for around 30 yards to blast over.

Barcelona belatedly found some rhythm before the interval and Pedri linked up nicely with Messi to fire in a rasping low drive that Jordi Masip tipped against the right post.

Koeman's front three were all involved before the hour – Messi releasing Dembele to draw a brilliant low stop from Masip, with Antoine Griezmann sending an improvised diving header wide on the rebound.

Jordi Alba survived appeals for a penalty after the ball flicked off his hand inside the Barca box and Plano sliced wide on another threatening break.

A yellow card would arguably have been suffice for Plano's petulance and Valladolid buckled at the last in what felt like a huge moment in the title race.

Ronald Koeman has no intention of resting Lionel Messi and Frenkie de Jong ahead of next week's El Clasico, despite both players being one booking away from a suspension.

Barca will be looking to extend their 18-match unbeaten run in LaLiga when they welcome Real Valladolid to Camp Nou on Monday.

Messi and De Jong are both available for the game as the Catalan giants look to keep the pressure on leaders Atletico Madrid, who are four points better off ahead of Sunday's trip to Sevilla.

However, both players risk being banned for next Saturday's showdown with bitter rivals Real Madrid, having each been booked four times already this season.

But while the pair may be walking a disciplinary tightrope, Koeman is ready to risk star man Messi and central midfielder De Jong against Valladolid.

"We know that these two players are one card away, but it is not the time to rest players due to cards or freshness," he said at Sunday's pre-match news conference.

"We have ten games left. There is always the risk, but the best thing is to put the team out that I think can win the game."

Messi has been directly involved in 23 league goals in 2021 - 16 goals and seven assists - which is more than any other player in the top five European leagues. 

The Argentinian has had a direct hand in eight goals in his last four LaLiga games against Real Valladolid - four goals and four assists.

Those goal involvements have helped Barca to 13 wins in their previous 14 LaLiga games against Valladolid, with the only exception being a 1-0 defeat away from home in March 2014.

Sergio Gonzalez's side have won just one of their past 11 league games, but Koeman will not take Monday's opponents lightly.

"You have to be prepared, you can't think that it will be an easy game," he said. "We have to go in with a lot of energy and rhythm and be good with the ball.

"We have to get back to our level. It could be a game without problems, but you always have to work hard to win."

Gerard Pique returned to training this week after recovering from a knee problem, while Sergi Roberto is also closing in on a comeback after two months on the sidelines.

Koeman will make a late decision on whether the defensive duo are ready to play a part against Valladolid.

"They are training with the team lately. They have improved a lot," he said.

"These are decisions that will be made tomorrow after the last training session. We aren't going to take risks [with injuries], nor next week, because there are more games coming this season."

Sevilla head coach Julen Lopetegui was thrilled to see goalkeeper Yassine Bounou make history with his last-gasp goal against Real Valladolid in LaLiga.

Bounou scored an incredible 94th-minute equaliser to rescue a 1-1 draw for visiting Sevilla at Valladolid on Saturday.

Seeking a late leveller, Sevilla sent goalkeeper Bounou forward and the Morocco international smashed home the equaliser at the death following a corner.

Bounou became the first goalkeeper in Sevilla's history to score in LaLiga – Andres Palop netted for the club in the UEFA Cup in 2007 – while the previous shot-stopper in the Spanish top flight to score from a non-penalty situation in the 21st century was Deportivo La Coruna's Dani Aranzubia in 2011.

Lopetegui – a former goalkeeper for Real Madrid, Barcelona, Spain and Rayo Vallecano – praised the 29-year-old Bounou.

"I've never scored a goal, not even in training but obviously it's a great goal from our goalkeeper today," Lopetegui told reporters post-match.

"It's not normal but it gave us some joy at the end of the game when we could have got three points, but it looked like we were going to come away empty handed.

"I just managed to speak to Bono after the game and obviously congratulate him. I am sure there were a few jokes in the dressing room surrounding Andres Palop's goal [for Sevilla] because everyone remembers that and it was obviously a very, very important goal in the Europa League and today was a very important goal for us as it came in the final minutes of the game and it helped us rescue a point.

"We're very satisfied that we didn't give up and we kept fighting to try and get back in the game. We kept on pushing and that is one of the characteristics of our team, and we got our reward." 

Bounou added: "The goal fell to me and I am grateful… the feeling is difficult to describe because I didn't know how to celebrate it.

"It's very strange, but hey, the team-mates were happy because we deserved more."

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane will not risk playing Karim Benzema against Atalanta if the striker is not fully fit.

Benzema missed Madrid's narrow 1-0 win over Real Valladolid in LaLiga on Saturday due to an unspecified knock.

Los Blancos struggled in the absence of their leading scorer as they managed just two shots on target at Estadio Jose Zorrilla.

However, Zidane will only name Benzema in his travelling party for Wednesday's Champions League last-16 first leg with Atalanta if he can first prove his fitness.

"We will see tomorrow," Zidane said. "I can't tell you right now. We are not going to risk him. If he's not ready, he won't be used."

Benzema was one of nine first-team players missing for Madrid against Valladolid, with the likes of Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal and Eden Hazard also nursing injuries.

But Zidane is unsure how many – if any – of his walking wounded have any chance of returning for the trip to Bergamo.

"The situation is what it is," he said. "There are many casualties. I hope to recover players, but I don't know if that will be next week.

"At the moment there are many casualties, but the players we have are committed and we have to continue with them. It's complicated, but you have to continue."

Despite the growing list of injuries, Madrid beat Valladolid thanks to Casemiro's second-half header to make it four LaLiga wins in a row, the last three of those victories without conceding.

Madrid are now within three points of leaders Atletico Madrid, who have dropped points in three of their last four matches but still have a game in hand to play.

Zidane's men travel to the Wanda Metropolitano on March 7 and the Frenchman wants his side to keep putting points on the board before then.

"There is no need to send a message. It is an important victory. It is the fourth victory and we have to continue our business," he said.

"You have to be happy with the game, with the result and with the clean sheet.

"We are in a good moment and have found some consistency with our results. The whole team defends very well. With the ball we can do things. 

"We arrived well and we have to rest well. We are going to prepare for the game on Wednesday in the best possible way."

Casemiro had missed two glorious headed chances before finding the back of the net with his third, which came via a superb Toni Kroos delivery from deep.

Kroos created four big opportunities in total and had both the most touches (83) and completed more passes (73) than any other player on the field.

Match-winner Casemiro was keen to share the plaudits with his team-mate, who now has five assists in his last five appearances.

"You have to be there to finish it off. But the credit goes to Toni, who always puts them well," he told Movistar. "I had three chances and I had to put away the third one.

"We still believe in the LaLiga title. All games are important. There are 42 points left. There are many points left and we believe in ourselves."

Casemiro's headed goal was his fourth of the LaLiga season - more than any other midfielder in Europe's top five leagues.

However, Madrid may well have been on the end of a shock defeat if not for Thibaut Courtois, the Belgium international making three big saves with the game still all square.

"We know that we are all important," Casemiro said. "Courtois with the stops - I'm not surprised, he always does that. 

"It's was a good goal for me to score. But we cannot speak of a single player today. This victory belongs to everyone."

Casemiro scored the only goal as injury-hit Real Madrid earned a 1-0 win at Real Valladolid to close the gap on LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid to three points.

Atletico lost for just the second time this season in the league earlier on Saturday to open the door, and their city rivals took full advantage at Estadio Jose Zorrilla with a fourth win in a row, the last three of those secured without conceding.

Zinedine Zidane's side failed to register a single shot on target in the first half of a league game for the second time this season and required Thibaut Courtois to produce three big saves to keep them level.

But Madrid, who were without striker Karim Benzema and eight other first-team players, made the breakthrough thanks to Casemiro's 65th-minute header and saw the game out to up the pressure on Atleti, who have a game in hand to play.

Courtois made the first of his key saves inside seven minutes to keep out Fabian Orellana's poked effort and then Saidy Janko's follow-up shot as Valladolid, also denied a strong penalty shout for Casemiro's tackle on Kike Perez, made a bright start.

Casemiro powered a free header over the crossbar from the edge of the six-yard box from Madrid's only clear-cut legitimate opportunity of a lacklustre first half, though Mariano did correctly have two goals ruled out for offside.

Lucas Vazquez fired in Madrid's first on-target attempt six minutes into the second period - a simple stop for Jordi Masip to make in the Valladolid goal - after Casemiro had guided another header off target.

The visitors would fallen behind three minutes later if not for Courtois, who saved Orellana's volley and spared the blushes of team-mate Ferland Mendy in the process - the full-back having crossed the ball straight to the opposition player.

However, it proved a case of third time lucky for Casemiro as he headed Toni Kroos' superb set-piece back across goal and away from Masip to open the scoring for the reigning champions.

Valladolid had another penalty appeal rejected, this time for Nacho Fernandez's challenge on Shon Weissman, as Madrid held on for what could yet prove to be a crucial win in the title race.

Karim Benzema is out of Real Madrid's LaLiga clash at Real Valladolid and faces a race to be fit for Wednesday's Champions League tie against Atalanta.

Los Blancos' superstar striker did not train on Friday due to an unspecified knock and will not travel to the Jose Zorrilla, where Madrid are looking for a fourth straight top-flight win.

Head coach Zinedine Zidane was unsure if Benzema will return for the last-16 first-leg tie at Atalanta and said he will be re-evaluated later in the week.

"Karim won't be with us tomorrow, he has a little niggle, he has something and he won't be with us tomorrow," Zidane told a pre-match news conference. 

"We hope he's ready for Wednesday, from Sunday-Monday onwards we'll see how his problems evolve and how he's ready for Wednesday."

It is an unwelcome blow for Zidane, whose squad has already been ravaged by injury with Benzema joining Eden Hazard, Rodrygo, Federico Valverde, Alvaro Odriozola, Eder Militao, Marcelo, Dani Carvajal and captain Sergio Ramos on the sidelines.

"I think any injury we get is a hammer blow for us. But of course we know the player Karim is for us, how important he is," Zidane added. 

"But as I said before he is injured, he won't be available tomorrow and we have to do the best we can. 

"We have to think about players who are there and recover Karim as soon as possible. The same goes for all the other players."

Despite the injury woes, Madrid have performed well over the past week in LaLiga and Zidane was asked if he is confident the team can show a similarly positive attitude in Europe.

"It is what it is. Mentally we can't do anything about these injuries. We just want to avoid more injuries," he said. 

"I think everyone here is committed to doing that but so many factors go into this. It's true that lately a lot of players are injured and it doesn't help. 

"We have so many injuries, today we had another with Benzema but we just need to be patient and the players who are available we just need to give it our all, and just hope we are going to recover our players. 

"I know the players want to get back to training and on the pitch. I hope we get all our players back but it's true lately it's become a little complicated, yes."

Even in these extraordinary times, Barcelona letting Luis Suarez go to Atletico Madrid is starting to look like the oddest decision of the season.

Suarez's double over Eibar on Thursday secured a 2-1 victory for the league leaders, who are seven points clear at the top with a game in hand over champions Real Madrid in second.

The Uruguay star, who has netted six in his past six league games for Atleti, is joint-top of the division's scoring charts alongside former team-mate Lionel Messi.

It seems increasingly likely that Suarez, and certainly Atletico, will be at the top of the tree come the end of 2020-21.

With the majority of sides having now played half of their matches, the Stats Perform AI team have run the numbers to simulate how the rest of the LaLiga campaign will play out – and it's good news for Diego Simeone.

 

The data model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team's attacking and defensive quality.

Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly.

All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model – with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.

 

ATLETICO WIN AT A CANTER

Atletico have been given a 75.1 per cent chance of winning LaLiga, according to the model.

Simeone's men are predicted to finish on 86 points, nine clear of the rest of the field. They are given just a 17.8 per cent chance of coming second and dropping outside the top four is considered practically impossible.

Barcelona and reigning champions Real Madrid are predicted to end with 77 points apiece, with just a 12.4 per cent chance each of pipping Atleti to the title. Madrid have a 41 per cent chance of finishing second, slightly above Barca's 39.4, having beaten Ronald Koeman's side 3-1 in the first Clasico of the season at Camp Nou last October.

Those two are, at least, very likely to end up in a Champions League place. They are expected to be joined there by Sevilla, who have a 47.8 per cent chance of finishing fourth on 65 points, just three above Villarreal and six clear of Real Sociedad. The remaining European spot is predicted to be a close battle between Granada, Getafe and Real Betis, with Diego Martinez's men odds on to snatch it.

Valencia fans might be enduring a difficult time (again), and our sim has Los Che missing out on European football once more, if only by four points. That said, they still have a 3.6 per cent chance of a Europa League spot, which is better odds than those given to Supercopa de Espana winners Athletic Bilbao.

 

WOE FOR HUESCA

At the other end of a relatively tight table, in which just 11 points will separate seventh from 16th, it looks like Huesca are in for a tough run-in. They are given a 59.7 per cent chance of finishing bottom of the pile and just a 5.1 per cent shot at avoiding relegation, having won only once so far this term.

Osasuna are predicted to end up just four points above them, with the bottom three likely to be completed by Deportivo Alaves, although Elche will also be right in the mix. In fact, with those two tipped to finish level on 39 points, survival could come down to their head-to-head record, making their showdown on May 11 potentially decisive. Elche have the advantage there, having won the reverse game 2-0 away from home.

Real Valladolid are expected to have just enough to stay out of trouble, although they have scant room for manoeuvre, with our predictor giving them an equal 15.1 per cent chance of finishing 17th and 18th.

Eibar and Cadiz are looking likely to stay safe; indeed, Jose Luis Mendilibar's men, along with Celta Vigo and Athletic, are given a 0.1 per cent chance of gatecrashing the top four. They might well have boosted those odds this week were it not for that pesky Suarez.

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