Andrea Pirlo hopes he now knows his best Juventus XI and does not need to experiment further as the Bianconeri look to kickstart their Serie A title defence.

Juve are fifth ahead of a return to club action this weekend, four points behind early leaders Milan as Pirlo gets to grips with his first coaching role.

Issues with injuries and positive coronavirus tests have forced Pirlo to shuffle his pack, but he now appears to have settled on a system that relies heavily on a forward pairing of Cristiano Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata.

Morata returned to Turin at the start of the season and has taken Paulo Dybala's place in the side, with the duo yet to play a single minute in Serie A together alongside Ronaldo.

Juve have not won when picking six-goal Ronaldo and Morata from the start, drawing with both Roma and Lazio, but the Portuguese's COVID-19 diagnosis set Pirlo's men back.

The coach certainly appears to have seen enough, surely encouraged by the 4-1 win at Spezia where Morata opened the scoring before the returning Ronaldo arrived from the bench to inspire victory with a brace - the first created by his strike partner.

"I hope the experiments are over," Pirlo told Juventus TV. "I have had the opportunity to work with players who are super willing to talk and make some technical, tactical changes, so I'm satisfied with this.

"Depending on the matches, maybe something will change, but let's first give an energetic impression and then maybe we will change something."

Pirlo reserved special praise for Morata, who starred in Spain's 6-0 Nations League win over Germany in midweek.

The forward, on loan from boyhood club Atletico Madrid, opened the scoring with one of his four efforts and then ran the visiting defence ragged, contesting 14 duels and winning four fouls - highs among all players.

"He is a great player," Pirlo said of Morata. "We took him for this reason. We knew of his quality; now he has also found the confidence and continuity he had lacked in recent years.

"We know his value and we hold him tight and pamper him."

Juve host Cagliari on Saturday and have both Matthijs de Ligt and Alex Sandro back fit, although the latter is likely to start from the bench.

Pirlo hopes his side can build on the 1-1 draw at Lazio prior to the international break when Felipe Caicedo's 95th-minute equaliser cost them two points.

"We played a good game - it's a pity we didn't close it," he said. "It is important to settle games early.

"This must be the mentality. We must not settle after scoring one goal. We must continue playing to try to close these games."

Alvaro Morata revelled in Spain's 6-0 rout of Germany as Luis Enrique's side shrugged off previous criticism to produce a stunning performance in Seville. 

Spain failed to make the inaugural Nations League Finals after a disappointing 2018 World Cup, but have progressed to the semi-finals in style this time around. 

Germany needed just a point from the clash to ensure they finished top of the group, yet instead Joachim Low's side suffered a chastening defeat on Tuesday. 

Morata opened the scoring, with Manchester City duo Ferran Torres and Rodri also on target before half-time. 

Torres went on to get a hat-trick – becoming the first Spanish player to net three in a single match against Germany – while substitute Mikel Oyarzabal rounded off the scoring late on.

The victory means Spain finish top of Group A4 having inflicted Germany's heaviest defeat since they lost 6-0 to Austria in 1931. 

This was no fluke either as the hosts dominated from the off, Torres alone managing seven attempts compared to two from Germany's entire team combined. 

A delighted Morata believes the performance will have silenced the doubters and praised the attitude of his team-mates.

"There is always something. I want to go home and see what they say about us," Morata told Teledeporte. 

"We have to do our job. The other day we did it. I would like to see what people say now. Against a European and world champion team. 

"We all help each other, there are young people. You have to have faith. We have a Euros ahead of us. 

"It is the attitude of the team. This is the team, we do what we have to do. It is a strong message for everyone. We want to continue this way. 

"It was our best match with Luis Enrique. You have to take it to see all the good we have done. We would like it to always be like this." 

After two years out of the national team picture, Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke has returned to Spain duty this month, featuring in all three November fixtures. 

It was his corner that allowed Rodri to head in Spain's third before the break and he finished the contest with a 95 per cent pass completion rate, also creating five chances for his team. 

"I had been away for a long time and continued working, which I have always done," Koke added. "The work pays off. Anything that is adding is positive for everyone." 

Torres, meanwhile, is anticipating a bright future for Spain. 

"We are very excited about the team we have and how things are going," the forward said. "Now we are going to prepare for the final four in the best possible way."

Ferran Torres scored a hat-trick as Spain secured a place at next year's Nations League Finals with a 6-0 demolition of Germany on Tuesday. 

Alvaro Morata, Rodri and Mikel Oyarzabal were also on the scoresheet in Seville as Joachim Low suffered the heaviest loss of his 14 years in charge. 

Germany needed only a point to secure top spot in Group A4 but found themselves 3-0 down by half-time, Spain delivering their best performance under Luis Enrique despite losing Sergio Ramos and Sergio Canales to hamstring problems. 

Manchester City's Torres added two more after the break before substitute Oyarzabal piled further pressure on Low, whose position will look increasingly perilous following this chastening defeat. 

Morata could hardly believe his luck when he was allowed a free header at the far post from a deep corner by Fabian Ruiz, on as an early substitute for the injured Canales, to open the scoring. 

Germany had struggled to get into the game and were fortunate not to be 2-0 down when Morata turned in Torres' cross only to be denied by a contentious offside call. 

Manuel Neuer, who became Germany's most-capped goalkeeper as he made his 96th appearance, did superbly to turn Torres' strike around the post as Spain once more got in down the right. 

However, he could do nothing to stop Torres smashing a rebound home from six yards after Dani Olmo's header had come back off the crossbar. 

It was 3-0 to an utterly dominant Spain five minutes later as a corner from Koke found an unmarked red shirt, this time in the form of Rodri, who glanced a brilliant header out of Neuer's reach. 

Ramos went off before the break after hurting his hamstring when sending a long pass forward, but his absence did little to shake Spain from their rhythm. 

With Germany pushing for a route back into the match, La Roja sprung a counter-attack down the left and Jose Gaya squared for Torres to steady himself and smash home number four. 

Torres secured his treble with 19 minutes to play, sweeping a low shot past a helpless Neuer as Spain once again cut the visiting defence to ribbons, and Oyarzabal was gifted an easy finish when Gaya prodded the ball into his path.

 

 

Luis Enrique hailed "unique" Sergio Ramos after the Spain captain equalled Italy great Gianluigi Buffon's European caps record in Wednesday's 1-1 draw with the Netherlands.

Ramos was brought on five minutes from time at the Johan Cruijff ArenA for his 176th international appearance, some 15 years after making his senior debut.

The Real Madrid centre-back can overtake Buffon as Europe's most-capped international footballer should he feature against Switzerland in Basel on Saturday.

He is also within eight appearances of the worldwide caps record, which is currently held by former Egypt midfielder Ahmed Hassan.

Spain head coach Luis Enrique praised Ramos for matching Buffon's tally.

"Sergio is unique. He is on a different level," he said after the match. "The appearance record is only within the reach of those who are very gifted."

Luis Enrique fielded an experimental XI that included debutant goalkeeper Unai Simon, plus returning quartet Koke, Alvaro Morata, Hector Bellerin and Marco Asensio.

Morata set up Sergio Canales for Spain's 18th-minute opener - the ninth goal the Juventus striker has been directly involved in in nine games for club and country this term.

"Alvaro has been very good but it is the same as we have seen these months at Juve," Luis Enrique said. "We caused problems for them with him in attack."

Koke also impressed in Amsterdam as he attempted more passes in the opposition half (29) and produced more tackles (four) than any other player on the field.

Asked about the Atletico Madrid midfielder's display, Luis Enrique said: "He is a player who gives us total guarantee that he will perform at a very high level. He did very well, exactly what I asked of him, and has the personality to play there."

Spain have won only two of their six matches this calendar year but Luis Enrique insisted he is happy with where his side are at ahead of key Nations League games with Switzerland and Germany over the next week.

"I have a good feeling because this was a complicated game for us," he said. "We had some good phases, although in the second half we became a little bit more disorganised.

"But in general I am satisfied with my side, who showed a good attitude. We had a plan in place to bring in some fresh player ahead of the two competitive matches. I am more than satisfied with what I have seen."

Spain head coach Luis Enrique backed Barcelona sensation Ansu Fati to pick up from where he left off once he has recovered from a knee injury.

Fati will spend four months on the sidelines after undergoing surgery on a tear to the internal meniscus of his left knee – an injury sustained in Saturday's 5-2 LaLiga win over Real Betis

The 18-year-old has been in great form for Barca this term, scoring five goals and assisting two more in 10 appearances in all competitions.

Among a number of other records, he became the youngest ever scorer for Spain with his goal against Ukraine in September.

That was one of four caps earned under Luis Enrique and the former Barcelona coach is confident the teenage attacker will find his best form once he returns to action.

"Regardless of how old you are, injuries are part of football," Luis Enrique said at a news conference ahead of Wednesday's friendly with the Netherlands. 

"It is a sad moment but he will overcome it. He will be the old Ansu again."

Fati's absence could give the likes of Alvaro Morata and Marcos Llorente a chance to shine in attack against the Netherlands.

Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke is back involved for the first time in over two years, while team-mate Llorente is in line for his maiden cap this international window.

"Morata is here because he has the confidence of his coach. He has a strong profile," Luis Enrique said.

"Llorente is almost already playing as a forward at Atletico now as the second striker. 

"The normal thing is to change your position, becoming deeper in your role, but with Llorente it is the other way around."

Spain enter the midweek friendly in Amsterdam on the back of a surprise 1-0 Nations League loss to Ukraine last month.

La Roja have won only two of their five matches this calendar year but Luis Enrique insisted all that matters is that his side peak in time for next year's rescheduled Euro 2020 finals.

"These games will help us to see all the players," he said. "But after playing these three games we still won't know what we have for the European Championships. 

"That will be seen in the tournament itself, where we can do very well. We'll see. I like what I see. You have to be optimistic and positive. Spain's real level will be seen at the Euros."

Spain coach Luis Enrique had no hesitations in handing Alvaro Morata an international recall after claiming the forward has turned himself into a different player at Juventus.

Morata last played for Spain in a Euro 2020 qualifier against Romania last November, seemingly falling out of favour since.

But the 28-year-old re-joined Juventus on loan from Atletico Madrid in September, and an upturn in form has brought him six goals in seven games for the Bianconeri.

Morata has scored 17 times in 33 appearances for Spain since making his debut in November 2014, but his consistency at club level has been questioned in the past.

However, Luis Enrique has closely monitored Morata's performances at Juve and seen enough to warrant his return to the squad.

Spain face the Netherlands in a friendly on Wednesday, before Nations League clashes with Switzerland and Germany.

"I call on Morata because since he returned to Juventus, he is confident and his numbers indicate that," Luis Enrique told a media conference on Friday.

"You can see a different player with many aspects improved in attack and defence. It is always a pleasure to have Alvaro again.

"Those of us who are outside can appreciate that, in terms of confidence and performance, Morata in attack is better than previously."

Luis Enrique also named Atletico midfielder Koke in his squad after an international exile of just over two years.

Koke, 28, last played for Spain in a 4-1 friendly defeat of Wales in October 2018.

The coach continued: "I have always liked Koke, he is of a high level and as a person he's 10 out of 10. The midfield is my weakness and there is a lot of competition. We will ask him for other things."

With Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara absent due to injury, there was also a first senior call-up for Koke's Atletico team-mate Marcos Llorente, and Luis Enrique backed him to make an impact.

He added: "Llorente is a very complete player, I will ask him where he is most comfortable. He is very versatile.

"He has scored goals, [got] assists, is powerful, well-equipped technically. He is eager to see what he can offer us.

"There are players who are not included due to injury, but it opens up the opportunity to see others. It is an interesting situation for me, to prepare for three very interesting games."

Alvaro Morata and Koke have been recalled to the Spain squad, while Marcos Llorente has earned a first senior call-up.

La Roja have been short of in-form central strikers in recent months but Morata has enjoyed a strong start to the season with Juventus, scoring six goals in seven appearances in all competitions, including three in his past two games.

Morata's last appearance for Spain was in a 5-0 Euro 2020 qualifying win over Romania in November 2019.

Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke has also returned, having last played for his country in a 4-1 friendly defeat of Wales more than two years ago.

Team-mate Marcos Llorente has earned his first call-up, while Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara is out due to problems with a knee injury and Arsenal's Dani Ceballos has been omitted.

With Diego Llorente injured, Inigo Martinez returns, as does Fabian Ruiz. Rodrigo Moreno is left out after testing positive for coronavirus this week.

Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga keeps his place despite having lost his starting spot under Frank Lampard to new signing Edouard Mendy.

Spain face the Netherlands in a friendly on Wednesday, before Nations League clashes with Switzerland and Germany.

Spain squad:

Kepa Arrizabalaga (Chelsea), David de Gea (Manchester United), Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao); Sergi Roberto (Barcelona), Jesus Navas (Sevilla), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Eric Garcia (Manchester City), Pau Torres (Villarreal), Inigo Martinez (Athletic Bilbao), Jose Gaya (Valencia), Sergio Reguilon (Tottenham); Rodri (Manchester City), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Fabian Ruiz (Napoli), Sergio Canales (Real Betis), Mikel Merino (Real Sociedad), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid); Adama Traore (Wolves), Dani Olmo (RB Leipzig), Ferran Torres (Manchester City), Gerard Moreno (Villarreal), Alvaro Morata (Juventus), Ansu Fati (Barcelona), Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad).

Juventus must patiently wait for Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala to recover full fitness before selecting both in a front three alongside Alvaro Morata, says Andrea Pirlo.

Dybala and Morata started in attack on Sunday as Juve took on Spezia in Serie A, looking for a first win in three.

That victory came, but Juventus only took control after Ronaldo - back following a negative coronavirus test this week - replaced Dybala shortly after half-time.

Morata had opened the scoring, before Spezia responded through Tommaso Pobega, while Dybala struggled.

Ronaldo's brace - either side of a strike from fellow substitute Adrien Rabiot - secured a 4-1 win, the Portuguese netting twice from the bench for the second time in his career. His previous such double came against Wigan Athletic for Manchester United in 2006.

But head coach Pirlo appears reluctant to switch to an exciting forward trio in the immediate future.

"We changed a bit for Spezia's approach," Pirlo told Sky Italia. "We brought Arthur a bit deeper because they were playing with three midfielders.

"But we played a good game. Dybala also played a good game. He lacks a little in terms of condition, but he is growing and we are waiting for him.

"It's still early because Cristiano comes from 20 days of inactivity, even Dybala is growing during the matches.

"But now we will see how we will do in the next few days and then we will decide."

Juventus are next in action on Wednesday when they face Ferencvaros in the Champions League.

Morata linked up effectively in the final third with each of Dybala and Ronaldo on Sunday, firing wide early on from the Argentina international's pass before creating five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo's first goal two minutes after his introduction.

However, the Spanish striker, who also created a chance for Federico Chiesa, shared just five passes with Dybala and three with Ronaldo.

Federico Chiesa was sent off on his Juventus debut as the Cristiano Ronaldo-less Serie A champions drew 1-1 with Crotone on Saturday. 

Bereft of the talismanic Ronaldo, who is self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19 while on international duty with Portugal, Juve looked far from their best at Stadio Ezio Scida. 

Alvaro Morata's first goal since rejoining the club on loan from Atletico Madrid cancelled out Simy's early penalty for the hosts, but their hopes of going on to claim all three points were dealt a blow with 30 minutes remaining when Chiesa, who joined on loan from Fiorentina on transfer deadline day, received a straight red card. 

Juve - whose veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon made his 650th Serie A appearance - thought they had won it late on thanks to a close-range finish from Morata but he was deemed to be offside after a lengthy VAR review. 

Crotone started with a spring in their step and were rewarded after 11 minutes when Simy stroked home from the penalty spot after Leonardo Bonucci had been adjudged to have fouled Arkadiusz Reca inside the area. 

Juve bounced back nine minutes later when Morata slid home from four yards after being picked out by Chiesa.

Manolo Portanova - making his first appearance since May 2019 - was denied by Alex Cordaz at his near post shortly before the interval, while at the other end Buffon denied Pedro Pereira. 

Rodrigo Bentancur flashed an effort wide immediately after the restart before Luca Cigarini whipped wide of Buffon's left-hand post from a promising position on the edge of the area. 

Chiesa then saw red for a late challenge on Cigarini, although Andrea Pirlo's men almost stole ahead soon after when Morata flicked a header onto the post. 

The Spain striker was denied a second inside the closing 15 minutes, with a VAR review showing that he was marginally offside when he turned home Juan Cuadrado's low ball into the area. 

A point moves Juve up to fourth, four points behind leaders Milan, while Crotone are off the bottom after picking up their first point of the season.

Alvaro Morata was not the third-choice signing as he was always a priority for Juventus, insists head coach Andrea Pirlo. 

Spain striker Morata sealed his return to Turin on an initial season-long deal from Atletico Madrid, with Juve retaining an option to make the deal permanent for €45million or pay an additional €10m to loan him for a further campaign. 

Juve had been tipped to sign Luis Suarez from Barcelona before the deal broke down and he joined Atleti, while Edin Dzeko was also linked with a move from Roma. 

But Morata arrived instead to fill a void left by Gonzalo Higuain's departure to Inter Miami, with the 27-year-old having left to re-join Real Madrid in 2016 and subsequently spending time at Chelsea and Atleti. 

Pirlo, who started his coaching career with a convincing 3-0 win over Sampdoria last week, said the fact he previously played alongside Morata was a big draw. 

"We were waiting for a striker and he arrived," he told a news conference ahead of the Serie A clash against Roma on Sunday. 

"Alvaro Morata knows us well and I was fortunate enough to have played with him.  

"He was not a third choice but one of our priorities, from a technical and tactical aspect he's what we were looking for."

Dzeko is set to come up against Juve at Stadio Olimpico and Pirlo acknowledged the threat he poses.

"He could have been a Juve striker, but he remains a great player," Pirlo added. "We respect him, but unfortunately he will be an opponent tomorrow."

Pirlo has a couple of selection posers to ponder against Roma with midfielder Arthur – a close-season arrival from Barca – in contention having been an unused substitute against Sampdoria, while forward Paulo Dybala returned to training this week after a muscular issue.  

"We've worked with Paulo Dybala, who has gradually returned with the group," Pirlo said. "Let's see how he feels today and whether he can travel to Rome. 

"Also, Arthur is coming from a period of inactivity but has worked very well. He's settling in, from a tactical and physical point of view. 

"He hasn't played much at Barcelona either. He needs a period of acclimatisation, he's available tomorrow and we'll see whether to let him play or not." 

Juventus welcomed Alvaro Morata back to Turin ahead of the forward's expected return to the Serie A champions.

Morata is reportedly set to join Juve on loan from Atletico Madrid in a deal that will cost €9million and the Italian club will also apparently have an option to buy the 27-year-old for €45m.

Juventus, who have been searching for a forward, welcomed Morata back as he landed in Turin.

"@AlvaroMorata is back in town!" the club wrote on Twitter alongside a picture of the forward.

Morata is set for his second spell at Juve, where he scored 27 goals in 93 games across two seasons between 2014 and 2016.

He then returned to Real Madrid for a season before joining Chelsea and later Atletico, where he netted 12 LaLiga goals in 34 games last season.

With Gonzalo Higuain having left to join Inter Miami, Juve had been linked with the likes of Barcelona's Luis Suarez and Roma's Edin Dzeko.

Morata's move could pave the way for Suarez, 33, to join Atletico.

Juve have won nine consecutive Serie A titles and opened their campaign under Andrea Pirlo with a 3-0 win over Sampdoria on Sunday.

Eduardo Camavinga is highly coveted following his exploits for Ligue 1 outfit Rennes.

The 17-year-old's stock has also risen after making his first France appearance.

Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly vying for his signature.

 

TOP STORY – GIANTS GO HEAD-TO-HEAD FOR CAMAVINGA

Real Madrid face competition from Paris Saint-Germain to sign Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga, according to Marca.

Camavinga, who made his international debut for France on Tuesday, has been heavily linked with a move to LaLiga champions Madrid.

However, Ligue 1 holders PSG are reportedly determined to keep the 17-year-old in France.

The front page of Friday's AS Diario adds Camavinga, PSG star Kylian Mbappe and RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano are being targeted by Madrid in 2021.

 

ROUND-UP

- TyC Sports claims Barcelona have made a new offer for Inter forward Lautaro Martinez. Repeatedly tipped to swap Inter for Barca, Martinez's agents are believed to be in Spain to discuss another bid.

Ronald Koeman has handed Barca a four-player shortlist, including Lyon's Memphis Depay, Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, Inter defender Stefan de Vrij and Manchester City defender Eric Garcia, claims Marca.

- FootMercato reports Madrid are considering a move for City attacker Riyad Mahrez.

- Sky Sport says Inter are convinced they will sign Arturo Vidal from Barca. It comes as Cagliari and Rennes try to sign veteran Nerazzurri defender Diego Godin, while Inter reportedly close in on Parma full-back Matteo Darmian.

- Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud has agreed a provisional contract to join Juventus as the Serie A champions wait on Barca veteran Luis Suarez, claims Sky Sports Italia. Juve have also been linked with Roma's Edin Dzeko, Napoli forward Arkadiusz Milik and Alvaro Morata of Atletico Madrid. Andrea Pirlo's Juve have also eyed former forward Moise Kean but Everton are unwilling to do a loan deal, reports Gianluca Di Marzio.

- Fabrizio Romano reports Juve striker Gonzalo Higuain, meanwhile, is set to complete his move to David Beckham's Inter Miami in MLS.

Leicester City want to sign Saint-Etienne defender Wesley Fofana but former Foxes boss Claude Puel is reluctant to part with the centre-back, according to Le10 Sport.

Could Antoine Griezmann leave Camp Nou now that Lionel Messi has committed to Barcelona for the 2020-21 season?

Griezmann endured a difficult first season at Barca following his arrival from Atletico Madrid.

Liverpool and Manchester United are among the teams who could tempt the Frenchman.

 

TOP STORY –  LIVERPOOL, UNITED CONSIDER GRIEZMANN

Liverpool and Manchester United are eyeing Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann, according to the Daily Mail.

Griezmann had reportedly been promised a leading role by new head coach Ronald Koeman had Lionel Messi left the club, but Barca's captain will remain at Camp Nou in 2020-21.

With Messi saying put, Premier League champions Liverpool, United and Arsenal are believed to be considering moves for Griezmann.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Guardian claims Manchester City are preparing a second bid for Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly. Pep Guardiola's City are hopeful they can find a compromise as United also reportedly eye the star defender.

- Sunday's La Gazzetta Sportiva is dominated by Barcelona pair Luis Suarez and Arturo Vidal. Suarez is poised to join Serie A champions Juventus, while Vidal is set to move to Antonio Conte's Inter.

- While Suarez is reportedly close to swapping Barca for Juve, the Italian giants are considering alternatives if the deal falls through. AS Diario says Juve are weighing up Atletico Madrid's Alvaro Morata, while Roma's Edin Dzeko and former Paris Saint-Germain forward Edinson Cavani have also been linked.

- According to Le10 Sport, Rennes are in discussions with Inter defender Diego Godin. The 34-year-old just finished his first season in Milan.

Milan remain one of the most active teams in the transfer market. Calciomercarto reports the Rossoneri have held talks with agent Fali Ramadani regarding Fiorentina defender Nikola Milenkovic, while Real Madrid forward Luka Jovic is still of interest to the club.

- Norwegian journalist Fredrik A.N. Filtvedt says United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had spoken to Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho many times and the England international wants to leave for Old Trafford.

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone claimed his side's determination to churn out results to secure a LaLiga top-four finish during a season of upheaval augurs well for the future.

Simeone's side are on course to finish third in LaLiga after goals from Marcos Llorente and Thomas Partey secured a 2-0 victory over Getafe in their penultimate league game of the season on Thursday.

It left Atleti two points clear of fourth-placed Sevilla – who drew 0-0 with Real Sociedad – and with a superior goal difference.

Simeone's side conclude their LaLiga campaign with a home match against Sociedad before their attention switches to the Champions League.

Atleti have a quarter-final match with RB Leipzig which will be played as a single-leg tie in Lisbon in August as part of a mini tournament to finish the competition.

It has been an impressive turnaround for Atleti and Simeone, who was under pressure earlier in the season but has now seen his side go 15 games unbeaten in LaLiga.

"There were many changes this year," Simeone said in a post-match media conference after the win over Getafe.

"Senior players left and new players came. In defence, for example. Periods of difficulty pass, but the team after the victory in Liverpool and the work since starting again has improved us.

"Being in the top four is important and a necessity for the club to continue growing.

"Is this a good signal for the Champions League? After the quarantine, except for the game against Real Betis and the first minutes against Getafe, the team has had work and a willingness to reach these good results."

Simeone started Diego Costa ahead of Alvaro Morata in attack against Getafe, with Llorente continuing in a playmaker role in behind.

And the Argentinian acknowledged the impressive displays of Llorente have made it difficult for his two leading strikers.

"Marcos has physical strength and danger with an assist, and with a goal. He is a boy to whom nobody gave anything and earns it day by day," added the Atleti coach.

"Costa has been through bad times and it is complex for the coach because Morata scores goals and whoever of the two is left out will be angry. 

"I have to guess the one that suits us in every game and maybe they are getting closer to being able to play together."

Alvaro Morata scored the fastest goal of the LaLiga season after just 51 seconds but Atletico Madrid had to settle for a 1-1 draw at Celta Vigo.

Morata followed up his double in the win over Real Mallorca last Friday by striking in the first minute at Estadio de Balaidos.

Fran Beltran deservedly levelled early in the second half with his first goal of the season to move Celta seven points clear of the relegation zone with three matches to play, although third-bottom Mallorca have a game in hand.

Third-placed Atleti are unbeaten in 15 games and a draw keeps them on course to secure a Champions League spot.

Atleti could not have wished for a better start, Angel Correa taking a pass from Santiago Arias and picking out Morata for a tap in with less than a minute on the clock.

Celta responded to that early blow and Brais Mendez's deflected strike went into the side-netting before the midfielder curled a shot wide of the far post.

Diego Simeone's side could have doubled their lead late in the first half, but Correa was unable to apply the finish as he charged into the penalty area.

Celta were level just four minutes after the restart, Beltran not getting a clean contact on Mendez's cross but seeing his volley loop into the far corner with Jan Oblak helpless.

Oscar Garcia's men did not look like a side in danger of the drop and Mendez was denied by the busy Oblak, who then palmed Santi Mina's strike away for a corner.

Ivan Villar came on to replace injured Celta goalkeeper Ruben Blanco with nine minutes to play and he denied Thomas Lemar, with the home side also having a penalty appeal dismissed following a VAR check late on.

 

What does it mean? Atleti a step closer to Champions League spot

Atleti lead Sevilla, who have a game in hand, by three points and are nine better off than fifth-placed Villarreal in the battle for Champions League spots.

On the evidence of this showing, in which they could have secured a surprise win, Celta ought to have enough to avoid relegation.

Morata on a roll

Striker Morata led the line well for Atleti and was in the right place at the right time to score his third goal in two games right in a dream start.

He now has 16 goals for the season in all competitions and it looks like there will be more to come.

Llorente stifled

It was certainly not one of the Marcos Llorente's better nights as he struggled to stamp his authority on the game before being withdrawn midway through the second half.

What's next?

Atleti entertain Real Betis on Saturday, when Celta travel to mid-table Osasuna.

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