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.

Alvaro Morata scored twice as Atletico Madrid maintained their unbeaten run since the resumption of LaLiga, easing to a 3-0 victory over Real Mallorca at the Wanda Metropolitano. 

Diego Simeone's in-form side followed up Tuesday's impressive performance in the 2-2 draw at Barcelona by brushing aside relegation-threatened opponents, in the process strengthening their position inside the top four. 

Morata made the most of Mallorca players encroaching too soon into the penalty area to score his first from the spot, VAR giving him a reprieve after Manolo Reina had saved his initial effort. 

Mallorca’s captain guessed correctly with the re-taken spot-kick too, yet Morata had enough height on his strike to beat the goalkeeper and move into double figures for league goals this season. 

The striker had missed an earlier opening as Aleti started impressively, while both Yannick Carrasco and Joao Felix failed to hit the target with excellent opportunities before the opener arrived in the 29th minute.  

Mallorca had thrashed nearest rivals Celta Vigo 5-1 at home in midweek and had their moments in attack before the break, Takefusa Kubo looking particularly bright.

However, any hope of the visitors claiming a bonus in the capital disappeared when Atleti doubled their advantage in added time at the end of the first half, the excellent Marcos Llorente - lining up on the right wing - crossing low for Morata to tap in at the back post.

Scoring just prior to the break allowed Atleti to coast through the second half, though they did add to their tally. 

Captain Koke seized on a weak clearing header to get away a strike that took a heavy deflection off Antonio Raillo, wrong-footing the helpless Reina.


What does it mean? From Atleti-low to riding high

It is now five wins and two draws for Simeone's squad since they returned to action in the middle of June, a run of form that has eased concerns about finishing outside the Champions League places.

His decision to use Llorente - viewed more as a holding midfielder when he signed from Real Madrid –  in an advanced position has been a masterstroke, with the 25-year-old catching the eye again out wide having also played recently as a secondary striker.

While the surge comes too late to mount a title challenge, things are looking up for Atletico. That is not the case for 18th-placed Mallorca, though, as they now have just four games left to try and retain their top-flight status.

Marcos makes his mark 

Morata will take the headlines with his first-half brace, yet Llorente produced the eye-catching performance. He completed over 93 per cent of his attempted passes and created two opportunities.

Little to celebrate for Joao Felix

It has been a testing first season at Atleti for Joao Felix. On the one-year anniversary of his big-money move from Benfica, the Portuguese forward fluffed his lines in front of goal, failing to hit the target with his three attempts before being replaced after just 54 minutes.

What's next? 

Atleti take on another team in relegation trouble on Tuesday, heading on the road to face Celta Vigo. Mallorca, meanwhile, have extra time to recover before they host Levante on Thursday.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has a long list of admirers.

From Manchester United to Real Madrid, the Lazio midfielder is a player in demand.

Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain, however, appear on track to sign the Serbia international.

 

TOP STORY –  PSG AND MILINKOVIC-SAVIC IN AGREEMENT

Paris Saint-Germain have reached a salary agreement with Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, according to Paris Fans.

Milinkovic-Savic has been linked to Premier League giants Manchester United and LaLiga powerhouse Real Madrid.

But PSG have an agreement with Milinkovic-Savic for a salary around €7million a year, while the deal could also include Laizo's Adam Marusic.

Firstly, PSG would like to seal the departure of Julian Draxler, who has been linked to Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin.

 

ROUND-UP

Neymar still wants to join Barcelona at the end of the season. The front page of Monday's Mundo Deportivo says the PSG star remains committed to pushing through a return to Barca at all costs.

- The Telegraph says Manchester City have entered the chase for Leicester City full-back Ben Chilwell. The Englishman has been heavily linked to Chelsea.

- Birmingham City sensation Jude Bellingham prefers Borussia Dortmund over United, reports the Birmingham Mail. The 16-year-old is wanted by both clubs, while he has already toured United's facilities.

Marco Verratti and Alvaro Morata are being linked with returns to Serie A. Tuttosport claims the possible arrival of Italian head coach Massimiliano Allegri at PSG could see Verratti and Juventus' Miralem Pjanic swap clubs. Atletico Madrid forward Morata, meanwhile, has been in contact with Inter as Edinson Cavani prepares to move to the Spanish capital on a free transfer.

- Admirers of Ismael Bennacer will struggle to sign the Milan midfielder. City, Madrid and PSG have been linked to Bennacer. But, Calciomercato says the 22-year-old's €50m release clause is not active until 2021.

Barca's bid to bring Lautaro Martinez to Camp Nou is no closer to completion. Junior Firpo has emerged as the key to unlocking the deadlock between Barca and Inter. Junior Firpo is valued at €41m by Barca, but FCInterNews says the Nerazzurri consider the defender's transfer value closer to €20m.

Federico Valverde called his crucial tackle on Atletico Madrid striker Alvaro Morata in Real Madrid's Supercopa de Espana final success in January "a clean foul".

Uruguay international Valverde was shown a straight red card for a tactical foul on Morata, who was set to shoot in a one-on-one with Thibaut Courtois in the 25th minute of extra time.

Atletico were unable to convert the free-kick or make the most of their numerical advantage in the closing stages, with Madrid going on to triumph 4-1 on penalties in Jeddah.

Valverde only received a one-game ban for the challenge, which he says was a calculated decision taken with no malice.

Asked about the incident, Valverde told ABC: "I don't know if it put me in the heart of Real Madrid fans, but I am not proud of committing a foul against an opponent.

"I don't know anyone who likes fouls. The ideal is to end a game without making any, but fouls are part of football.

"But what I would really not be proud of is not doing anything for my team in that, or any, passage of play.

"It was a clean foul, not done to injure, of course!"

Valverde has made 32 appearances in all competitions for Madrid in 2019, 23 of which have come as part of Zinedine Zidane's starting line-up.

However, the 21-year-old does not feel like he has firmly established himself as one of the team's leading players.

"I don't feel like I've experienced my confirmation [as a Madrid player]. I continue with the mentality of the first day I entered the biggest dressing room in the world," said Valverde.

"There are many players here who are stars, who have been confirmed for a long time and I know from them that, to feel like you have earned a place in the team, you have to toil a lot beforehand. I am just toiling. My goals are clear in my head: learn and give everything."

Asked if he would like to spend the rest of his career with Madrid, Valverde replied: "It's the dream. I don't want to be anywhere other than at Real Madrid.

"I would like nothing more than to be useful and necessary for my dream team."

Atletico Madrid striker Alvaro Morata has spoken of his regret at leaving the club's academy when he was climbing through the youth ranks.

Morata was a boyhood Atleti fan but left for Getafe in 2007 before joining Real Madrid a year later.

In two spells with Los Blancos, Morata won two LaLiga titles, two Copas del Rey and two Champions League medals.

Between those stints, Morata collected two Serie A titles and two Coppa Italia crowns with Juventus and went on to endure an indifferent spell with Chelsea before re-joining Atleti in January 2019.

Spain striker Morata says he is now happier than at any other point of his career.

"When I was a kid, I was a ballboy at Atletico," Morata said during an Instagram Live video with tennis player Fabio Fognini.

"Then I went through a period where I didn't enjoy it so much. You know, it's the path a young kid goes down to be a professional.

"You start with agents, sponsors. I felt a lot of pressure, I wasn't starting games.

"I thought about leaving. Then I spent a year at Getafe and, you know what, it was an amazing year.

"Then I went to Real Madrid, but my dad and I used to go to the [Vicente] Calderon and I dreamed of playing there.

"However, unfortunately, I had to play there for other clubs and not with Atletico, but I always wanted to. What I have lived stays, but now I am happier than ever."

Morata also spoke about the toughest defenders he has faced in his career.

"[Giorgio] Chiellini, I don't know if he does it on purpose, but when he meets me, he always destroys me," Morata said with a laugh.

"Sergio Ramos is also a tough defender, while when you go against [Virgil] Van Dijk it seems like you hit a mountain."

 

Federico Valverde was named the MVP of the Supercopa de Espana final despite a cynical extra-time red card that prompted the Real Madrid midfielder to apologise to Alvaro Morata.

Ten-man Madrid beat city rivals Atletico Madrid on penalties after a goalless draw in Saudi Arabia.

But former Madrid star Morata might have proven the hero for Atleti in the 115th minute had Valverde not taken drastic action, chopping down the striker from behind as he bore down on goal.

Atleti reacted furiously to the challenge, and their mood was not improved when Thibaut Courtois made a crucial save from Thomas Partey in the shoot-out.

Madrid won 4-1 and Valverde was then pronounced the man of the match. Facing the media due to the award, he offered an apology.

"I apologise to Alvaro Morata," he said. "I know it's not good what I did, but I didn't have any other option."

Valverde has consistently impressed this season and added of a breakout campaign: "I'm very happy. It's something you train for, you work for, you fight for, to have good results.

"Things are working out well. I'm getting minutes on the pitch, playing, the team is winning. It's fantastic. I'm enjoying every minute of my life, an amazing time.

"As well as winning titles with the team, I am also going to become a father. So many positive things are happening and I'm trying my best to enjoy them."

Angel Correa stunned Barcelona with a late winner as Atletico Madrid snatched an improbable 3-2 semi-final victory in the Supercopa de Espana.

Barcelona had 75 per cent of possession in the opening 45 minutes in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and looked set to ease to victory once they got over the shock of shipping a goal to substitute Koke after 20 seconds of the second half.

Lionel Messi equalised, Antoine Griezmann headed Barcelona ahead against his former club, and Messi and Gerard Pique both had goals disallowed by VAR for marginal offside decisions.

But against the momentum, which suggested a Barcelona landslide, Atletico equalised when Vitolo was hacked down by Neto and Alvaro Morata fired home the ensuing 81st-minute penalty.

Atletico wanted a second penalty moments later when Pique handballed, but their frustration at not getting that decision was forgotten when Morata slipped Correa through and the Argentinian forward fired home the fifth and final goal of a remarkable game.

Now Real Madrid stand between Atletico and the Supercopa trophy, with the final on Sunday at the King Abdullah Sports City stadium.

Angel Correa and Alvaro Morata scored second-half goals as Atletico Madrid ended a run of five successive away draws in LaLiga, recording a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Real Betis.

Diego Simeone's decision to send on Correa for the ineffectual Thomas Lemar early in the second half reaped a rapid return, the forward finding the net just 97 seconds after his introduction off the bench.

After blocking a clearance from the dithering Alex Moreno, the Argentina international reacted quickly to seize on the loose ball and then round goalkeeper Joel Robles, allowing him to convert into an unguarded net.

Correa's classy finish put his side on course for a first triumph on the road for Atletico since a 2-0 result against Real Mallorca way back on September 25.

He also had a hand in their second, too, as it was his low cross that allowed Morata, who had a header correctly ruled out for offside during the first half at Benito Villamarin, to turn the ball in at the front post.

Betis did get a consolation in added time, Marc Bartra converting from inside the penalty area with the aid of a deflection, the goal given after a lengthy VAR consultation that infuriated an already raucous home crowd.

Both teams had hit the woodwork in the first half, a combination of Robles and a post denying a rising drive from Morata after the forward had been put clean through on goal by Joao Felix.

At the other end, Atletico needed the help of the crossbar before the break to keep out a header from Betis defender Zouhair Feddal, with the visitors second best before Correa's intervention on proceedings.

Sergio Canales saw a low shot deflect wide off an upright when Betis only trailed by one, before Morata tucked in his ninth of the season to put his team out of reach, even with Bartra's late, late strike.


What does it mean? Atletico clinging on in title race

It may not even be the halfway stage of the season, but it is clear Atletico can ill-afford to lose any more ground in the title race if they are to remain serious contenders.

The gap to the summit still sits at a rather sizeable seven points, but at least back-to-back wins prior to the mid-season break have Simeone's squad sitting in the top four.

Angel makes festive impact

Not even Simeone can have expected his first change to leave such a mark on the contest.

Correa immediately provided some much-needed energy in attack, with his determination to close down Moreno leading to the crucial opener.

Lemar the fall guy again

The Frenchman's withdrawal was hardly a surprise; he has completed 90 minutes just once in LaLiga in this campaign.

Lemar had just 15 total touches and failed to create a chance or have a shot during his time on the pitch.

Key Opta facts

- Angel Correa is the only substitute to both score and assist in the same LaLiga game this season. 
- Only Getafe's Angel Rodriguez (12) has scored more goals than Alvaro Morata (9) this season in all competitions among Spanish players from the top five European leagues. 
- Marc Bartra has scored in back-to-back LaLiga games for the first time. He has as many league goals in his last two appearances as he managed in his previous 63. 
- Atletico have kept a clean sheet in the first half in eight of their nine LaLiga away games, but they have only scored in one of those fixtures.
-  No other player has been caught offside more often than Morata in the top five European leagues this season (23).

What's next?

Atletico will be at home to Levante on January 4 when the league season resumes early in 2020, while Betis are on the road to Deportivo Alaves the following day.

Angel Correa and Alvaro Morata scored second-half goals as Atletico Madrid ended a run of five successive away draws in LaLiga, recording a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Real Betis.

Diego Simeone's decision to send on Correa for the ineffectual Thomas Lemar early in the second half reaped a rapid return, the forward finding the net just 97 seconds after his introduction off the bench.

After blocking a clearance from the dithering Alex Moreno, the Argentina international reacted quickly to seize on the loose ball and then round goalkeeper Joel Robles, allowing him to convert into an unguarded net.

Correa's classy finish put his side on course for a first triumph on the road for Atletico since a 2-0 result against Real Mallorca way back on September 25.

He also had a hand in their second, too, as it was his low cross that allowed Morata, who had a header correctly ruled out for offside during the first half at Benito Villamarin, to turn the ball in at the front post.

Betis did get a late consolation in added time, Marc Bartra converting from inside the penalty area with the aid of a deflection, the goal given after a lengthy VAR consultation that infuriated an already raucous home crowd.

Diego Simeone believes there are few strikers in football with the ability of Atletico Madrid frontman Alvaro Morata.

Spain international Morata found the breakthrough in Saturday's 2-0 win over Osasuna – Atleti's first victory in four LaLiga outings that moved them back up to fourth in the table.

The former Chelsea, Real Madrid and Juventus forward scored in seven consecutive games for club and country as October became November but ended a six-game drought when he powered Kieran Trippier's free-kick past inspired Osasuna goalkeeper Sergio Herrera.

Simeone has been linked to making attacking reinforcements during the January transfer window, with Timo Werner, Edinson Cavani and Olivier Giroud all touted as possible Atletico targets, but he offered a ringing endorsement of his current number nine.

"Hopefully he'll return to the way he was before the [international] break," he told a post-match news conference.

"He was scoring in almost every game.

"There aren't many people like that in football and we want to make the most of him."

Manuel Sanchez made his Atletico debut at left-back and Simeone felt the 19-year-old's impressive showing was fitting as it came on the evening long-serving defender Juanfran bade farewell to the club's faithful before kick-off.

"I loved him," he said.

"It's not easy. He's young, growing and has been working a lot with us.

"He has to keep growing and this was an important moment for his career.

"Today, Juanfran said goodbye and another debuted. Someone new was born."

Alvaro Morata believes Atletico Madrid are moving in the right direction after they returned to winning ways in LaLiga with a 2-0 triumph over Osasuna.

Visiting goalkeeper Sergio Herrera turned in a stunning display that threatened to make it a fourth straight top-flight game without taking three points for Diego Simeone's men.

However, Morata powered home a 67th-minute Kieran Trippier free-kick – ending a six-game goal drought for club and country – before Saul Niguez made the points safe.

"It's our last game of the year here. It was important to win it," Morata said on the Wanda Metropolitano pitch afterwards, before talking up Atleti's recent performance.

"We had a lot of chances - not just me, the whole team. I think we're growing as a team.

"We came out well against Barcelona and Juventus and Villarreal and we've got to continue that way. We're playing well.

"Every team needs to win. We're in a good dynamic, we’ve got a lot of desire and, as I say, we're growing as a team. The results will come."

As Diego Costa remains on the sidelines with a neck injury, Atletico have been linked to a host of strikers ahead of the January transfer window.

Even if the likes of Edinson Cavani, Timo Werner and Olivier Giroud are under consideration, Morata insists that is none of his concern.

"No, I don't care," he replied. "We're a great team and great dressing room and that's the important thing."

Alvaro Morata vowed to continue pushing to earn a place in Spain's squad for Euro 2020, accepting he faces a fight for a spot.

Morata returned to the squad this month and opened the scoring in the 7-0 thrashing of Malta in Euro 2020 qualifying on Friday.

The forward has scored seven goals in 13 games for Atletico Madrid this season and the 27-year-old wants to continue his form to guarantee a spot at next year's European Championship.

"I am confident on the pitch and I know I will have to give everything during the season in order to be at the European Championships," Morata told a news conference on Sunday.

"There won't be space for everybody. I want to keep going, doing everything I can for Atletico and Spain.

"If I play well at the club the Euros will be closer at the end of the season for sure."

Spain have already progressed from Group F ahead of hosting Romania in their final qualifier at the Wanda Metropolitano on Monday.

Robert Moreno has overseen six wins and two draws since first taking charge of Spain in March and the head coach has been happy with his side's progress.

"When you give all you have in order to get everything and you can see the players do that as well, so you can just give 10 out of 10," he said.

"Results sometimes are complex and I think we have done a really good job, my mum says that when she watches us on TV and I agree with her.

"I am giving my staff and my team 10 out of 10 as I couldn't ask more from them."

Moreno is wary of Romania, who are third in the group and have secured a spot in the play-offs.

"I don't think it will be easy, I think it will be even more difficult because when there are teams playing for something there is some pressure, which sometimes is bad for the team," he said.

"Romania are not playing for anything as they have secured a place in the play-offs, so that will make them a more dangerous opponent.

"I would like Cosmin Contra to continue coaching Romania. He is doing a good job. I think he is a good coach. If he wants to keep coaching Romania I think it will be good for the country."

Santi Cazorla scored his first Spain goal for four years as two debutants also got on the scoresheet in a 7-0 thrashing of Malta in Euro 2020 qualifying on Friday.

The Villarreal veteran struck 41 minutes in after Alvaro Morata had put Robert Moreno's men ahead, before the floodgates opened in the second half at Estadio Ramon de Carranza.

Moreno made seven changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Sweden last time out and handed debuts to Pau Torres and Dani Olmo in the second half, each of whom repaid him with a goal.

A fine strike from Pablo Sarabia, a simple finish for the impressive Gerard Moreno and a late Jesus Navas effort secured a resounding victory in Cadiz for a Spain side who were already assured of their place at next year's finals.

Morata scored his seventh goal in as many games for club and country with 23 minutes gone, bundling a finish beyond goalkeeper Henry Bonello after Gerard Moreno turned a loose ball goalwards.

It was Morata who prevented Spain doubling their lead 27 minutes in, the striker judged to be interfering with play from an offside position when Moreno blasted home the rebound after a brilliant Bonello save denied Sergio Ramos.

Moreno somehow failed to turn Sarabia's cross into an unguarded net, but the second goal did come - and in some style - four minutes before the break. Cazorla gathered Moreno's first-time pass and slotted the ball in off the left-hand post for his first international goal since 2015.

Cazorla went off to a standing ovation eight minutes after the restart as Spain set about securing the result, with only a brilliant clearance off the line from Jonathan Caruana denying Sarabia.

Spain ended the match as a contest with two goals in the space of a minute, Torres chesting the ball in from Paco Alcacer's flick-on from a corner before Sarabia arrowed a left-footed finish into the top-right corner from Moreno's lay-off.

Olmo became the second debutant to get on the scoresheet, rounding the goalkeeper before slotting home after the Malta defence was split by Thiago's pass, and Moreno at last got his goal when he tapped in Juan Bernat's cut-back.

Navas capped a fine outing for Spain with the goal of the game five minutes from time, sending a dipping strike over the stranded Bonello from 25 yards out.

 

What does it mean? Spain's old guard give Moreno food for thought

Raul Albiol, Navas and Cazorla might have a combined age of 101, but they started this game entirely on merit given their club form.

While this was as routine as qualifying matches get, none of the three looked out of place and could all hope to be part of the final squad for next year's tournament.

Marvellous Moreno makes amends for miss

He will likely never know quite how he missed his first-half chance, but Moreno made up for it with three assists and a second-half tap-in in a lively performance down the Spain right.

Bonello bamboozled

His defence did not exactly help him in the second half, but neither did Bonello cover himself in glory, particularly with his positioning for Navas' goal.

What's next?

Spain conclude Euro 2020 qualifying against Romania in Madrid on Monday, when Malta host Norway.

Alvaro Morata suggested Atletico Madrid pay no attention to criticism after he fired the capital club to a vital win at home to Espanyol.

Atleti were winless in three in all competitions and four points off the pace in LaLiga coming into Sunday's fixture, with leaders Barcelona and second-placed Real Madrid each winning a day earlier.

Diego Simeone's men fell a goal behind to Sergi Darder's clinical strike, before Morata came to the fore, creating Angel Correa's equaliser and then scoring himself.

Koke made sure of the points in stoppage time to send Atleti into the international break on a high after a mixed start to the season.

Even as the team have toiled, though, losing to Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League in midweek, Morata insists their attitude cannot be questioned and the squad are united in ignoring external analysis.

"We are always motivated," he said, having scored in a sixth straight game in all competitions. "It may be that sometimes we do well and sometimes we do not. We always go out to win - and today, we have done it.

"Inside the team, we are a compact group and we are not affected by what is said about us. If we do what we have to do, we will go far this season."

Morata added he felt Atleti had been unfortunate in previous matches not to win and so had no qualms about collecting three points from an unconvincing display against struggling Espanyol.

"The important thing is that we win," he said. "I always say it.

"In the end, it is about being all together, in moments like the other day [in Leverkusen] or in Seville [last week's 1-1 draw with Sevilla], matches in which I think we deserved more.

"But today we have won and added three important points to move up the table.

Morata's contributions turned the match on its head after a tough start in which Atleti looked uncharacteristically shaky at the back, not aided by the unorthodox presence of Saul Niguez at left-back.

Renan Lodi, talked up by his coach on Saturday, was left on the bench, and Simeone explained: "I wanted to have more strength and to have a replacement for Lodi, who had been playing many games and needed a break."

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