Diego Simeone praised the enthusiasm of Atletico Madrid strikers Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata despite their struggles in front of goal this season.

Atleti have just one win from their past five LaLiga games but are only three points behind leaders and city rivals Real Madrid.

Simeone's men have drawn a blank in each of the four encounters they have failed to win in this stretch.

Costa and Morata have each scored only once in the league so far this campaign, but Simeone sees little reason to be concerned about the duo.

"I think they are great, they're doing good, even if they haven't proved it with goals yet - and I know that's their bread and butter," Simeone told a media conference. 

"I think their involvement, predisposition and their will to improve is awesome. I hope they keep it that way, it's their challenge

"They both scored one goal in La Liga, Morata played less than Diego but I see both are enthusiastic. I can see they want to improve.

"We have to keep calm and know they are two important players for this club and the team. We hope that they will start scoring soon since it's part of their lives, [but] I sincerely think they're doing good."

Atletico welcome Valencia to the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday, with Simeone hoping his players hit their stride quickly upon returning from the international break.

"When they come back from the national team, it is not easy," Simeone added. "They're playing more and more games with the national team and that's difficult for the teams and obviously for the players as well.

"They play almost every day. We hope they adapt again really fast to the club and competition.

"Tomorrow's game is against a competitive and historic team like Valencia, they are really powerful at recovering and counter-attacking.

"A few things are changing with [Albert] Celades from what it was with Marcelino, but obviously the team already had a structure and I imagine the coach is combining it to do the best for the team.

"They are dangerous, dynamic and have a dangerous counter-attack, and we think that's the way our rival will play tomorrow."

Diego Simeone backed his Atletico Madrid forwards to come good in LaLiga but said they need "more forcefulness and anger" to find the net.

Atletico were held to a second consecutive goalless LaLiga draw when they failed to break down a resolute Real Valladolid side at Estadio Jose Zorrilla on Sunday and Simeone admitted his side were slow to get going.

The Rojiblancos improved in the second half but the closest they went to scoring was an Angel Correa shot that hit the post, leaving them with just one win from their past five league games, with Atleti failing to score in four of those.

Simeone gave credit to Valladolid, who missed a first-half penalty, saying: "The opponent was better in the first half. We did very little.

"In the second we were much better, it was more intense, we were more keen to show danger and we created a situation to win. The second half was closer to how we wanted to play from the start."

Asked about his side's problems in front of goal, after a third 0-0- draw in four LaLiga matches, Simeone said: "We need more precision, more forcefulness and anger.

"I see [Alvaro] Morata and [Diego] Costa have the intent, enthusiasm and desire to do things well and they have all my support.

"We have to wait, because they will find the answer for sure."

Morata, who went close to scoring when his second-half shot hit the face of Valladolid goalkeeper Jordi Masip, said he felt his team-mates were affected by their midweek trip to Moscow in the Champions League.

Atletico beat Lokomotiv Moscow 2-0 five days before their trip to Valladolid, with Joao Felix and Thomas Partey on the score-sheet.

"It is not easy to play after having played a game so far [Moscow]," said Morata.

"We are tired but there is no excuse.

"We are fine, it is not easy, LaLiga is more difficult than a few years ago. If we continue along this line we will be up there."

Atletico Madrid's stuttering season continued as they were held to a third goalless draw in four LaLiga matches by Real Valladolid, who remain unbeaten at home in LaLiga this season.

Diego Simeone's men were let off the hook when Sandro Ramirez ballooned a penalty over the crossbar in the first half at Estadio Jose Zorrilla but failed to impose their authority in a game they were expected to win.

Atleti went into the match with a record of seven goals in seven LaLiga matches this season and their attack was turgid again here, with strike partners Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata receiving scant service.

Valladolid had lost all of their previous eight league matches against Atleti but held firm to claim a valuable point in their push for the top half of the table.

Sandro Ramirez fired a warning shot into Jan Oblak's body as Valladolid tried to unsettle the visitors but Diego Simeone's men dominated the ball early on and slowed the game down.

Chances were few and far between until Thomas Partey tripped Sandro in the box and, after a lengthy VAR review, the referee pointed to the penalty spot.

Sandro stepped up in the hope of scoring his first goal for the club but got his penalty all wrong, sending the ball curling high over the crossbar.

Saul Niguez fizzed a shot narrowly wide from 25 yards as Atletico adopted a more direct approach after half-time.

Morata got in behind the hosts' defence and fired a shot that hit goalkeeper Jordi Masip in the face before Valladolid countered and Sandro went close with an effort on the turn.

Kieran Trippier's cross created a chance for Angel Correa with 10 minutes left but the substitute's powerful shot pinged back off the post to the relief of the home crowd, who will have been delighted with a point against one of the title favourites.

 

What does it mean? One win in five for Simeone's men

While it is too early to start ruling Atletico out of the title race, Simeone will be concerned by a lack of cutting edge in attack that has contributed to a run of one win, three draws and one defeat in their last five league games.

They are second in the table but three points behind leaders Real Madrid.

Morata more lively

While Costa was largely a bystander, Morata provided Atleti with an outlet and battled through some heavy challenges to keep his side on the front foot.

Sandro's struggle

Three seasons ago, Sandro scored 14 LaLiga goals in 30 appearances for Malaga and looked a star in the making. Now, at the age of just 24, he looks a spent force and the way he hung his head after blazing Valladolid's penalty over the crossbar suggested he feels like one, too.

What's next?

Valladolid travel to Athletic Bilbao after the international break, while Atletico Madrid will hope to pick up their first home win since September 1 when they entertain Valencia in 13 days' time.

Diego Simeone was encouraged by the performance of Joao Felix in Tuesday's 2-0 Champions League win at Lokomotiv Moscow, convinced that will help him further his improvement.

Joao Felix joined Atletico for €126million in pre-season, coming in as the replacement for Antoine Griezmann after his move to Barcelona.

The 19-year-old attacker impressed in the close-season, particularly when getting a goal and two assists in the remarkable 7-3 friendly win over rivals Real Madrid in July.

He has had a slightly slower start to life in competitive action for Atletico, scoring twice and setting up one goal in seven LaLiga outings, but Simeone was impressed with his display in Moscow.

The Portugal international scored Atletico's first goal from close range after chasing up his own effort that rebounded back off the goalkeeper, before then playing a key role in their second – winning the ball back and picking out Diego Costa, who squared to Thomas Partey for the finish.

"It was the match in which he was most involved, possibly, in the rhythm of the game," Simeone told reporters ahead of Sunday's trip to Real Valladolid.

"For a player who likes to have the ball, participate in the game of his team, it [the performance] generates more enthusiasm.

"The other day this happened, he was active in the two goals of the team. That will lead him to continue growing.

"What I liked most was when he threw himself on the floor and retrieved a ball near the bench and showing that he understands what football is."

Simeone has been rotating his options in attack this season, opting to play all three of Joao Felix, Costa and Alvaro Morata on Tuesday.

And, according to the coach, that is advantage Joao Felix brings; he can feature either out wide or in a support role behind two main strikers.

"Due to his characteristics, he can play accompanied by a striker or with two striker references," Simeone said. "He has a great vision of the game and the team has more possibilities playing with two strikers and plus Joao, but the work balance of the rest of the team rises and will depend on the players.

"I think he can play in both versions. When he arrived I think he came with chances to play as a second striker. Now, when he participates most is with Costa and Morata, he has more vision to participate."

Atletico Madrid striker Alvaro Morata is set to miss Saturday's derby with his former club Real Madrid after an appeal against a suspension was unsuccessful.

Morata was sent off in Atletico's LaLiga clash with Real Mallorca on Wednesday after being shown two yellow cards in quick succession following an appearance as a substitute.

The Spain international had come off the bench in the 69th minute, and he collected a booking just eight minutes later after a row with referee Alejandro Hernandez.

He was then swiftly involved in a flashpoint with Mallorca's Salva Sevilla which saw the pair square up to each other and exchange angry words before Morata, 26, received a second booking.

Atletico had written to the Spanish FA asking for clemency on Morata's suspension, but the governing body's disciplinary committee decided the one-match ban would not be overturned and fined the club 350 euros.

Diego Simeone's side also had an appeal for a yellow card picked up in the same match by defender Stefan Savic turned down.

"The arguments made by Atletico Madrid are rejected and the reprimands imposed on the said players are confirmed," said a statement from the Spanish FA.

Atletico still have the option to appeal against the decisions made by the committee and should they do so would receive an answer on Saturday morning.

Morata, who is on loan from Chelsea, has scored one goal in four LaLiga appearances for Atletico this season.

He had two spells with Real Madrid, representing the club from 2010 to 2014 and from 2016 to 2017.

Diego Costa and Joao Felix were on target as 10-man Atletico Madrid returned to winning ways with a 2-0 LaLiga victory at Real Mallorca on Wednesday. 

Spain international Costa scored his first goal of the season with a powerful header midway through the first half before Joao Felix's deflected effort doubled Atleti’s advantage after the break.

It was a first victory in three league matches for Diego Simeone's side as they rediscovered some form in good time for Saturday’s derby at home to Real Madrid.

However, while two of Atleti’s front men thrived, Alvaro Morata is set to miss that clash with his former side following a red card for two bookings within eight minutes of his arrival from the bench.

Atletico could head into that match top of the table, though, having moved to the summit with this win ahead of Madrid facing Osasuna later on Wednesday.

Having followed up an impressive pre-season with a tough start to the 2019-20 campaign, Costa got his breakthrough and headed Atleti in front with a trademark 26th-minute effort.

Koke saw his initial corner cleared straight back to him and Mallorca were punished at the second time of asking as his cross was met with a bullet header from Costa.

Atletico were then halted by VAR when they appeared to have won a penalty after Joao Felix's bicycle kick struck Joan Sastre's arm inside the area, with the Portugal international himself deemed to have handled in the build-up.

Joao Felix got his goal in the 65th minute, though, turning sharply inside the area before seeing his effort take a wicked deflection off Ante Budimir and loop in off the left-hand post.

Less impressive was the impact of Morata, who departed swiftly after his 69th-minute introduction.

The forward clashed with Mallorca captain Xisco Campos off the ball and both men were booked, before Morata continued to take issue with his opponent and received a second yellow.

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone suggested Joao Felix, Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata could be set to start together in LaLiga for the first time.

Morata started the campaign alongside record signing Joao Felix when Costa was sidelined by an adductor injury.

After Morata succumbed to a knee problem, Simeone then opted to field Costa with Joao Felix in Atleti's attack.

With Morata fully fit and Atletico having failed to score in successive LaLiga games against Real Sociedad and Celta Vigo, Simeone could select the trio together for Wednesday's trip to Real Mallorca.

"As I always said, and I said it before in some other press conferences, when Alvaro and Diego are both strong and in shape it's very likely that they will play together," he told reporters.

"They have physical strength, increase our chances of scoring goals and open the possibility of other players coming in to play just behind them.

"Alvaro is back and Diego has played already a few times, we hope they can stay in good shape so they can play together.

"Alvaro has always been related with goals, he's a great reference in the area. [A lack of goals] wears down strikers a lot, so if Costa plays alongside him we will have opportunities to generate or attempt danger.

"And if it's Joao or [Angel] Correa playing behind them we will try to share the efforts during the 90 minutes tomorrow."

Costa has only scored once in competitive action this year but Simeone again backed the Brazil-born Spain international to recover the form that fired Atleti to LaLiga glory in 2013-14, when he hit 27 top-flight goals.

"It's true that not getting frequent chances to score is worrisome for a striker," Simeone said. "We work alongside Diego, listening to what he sees and feels and telling him what we think he has to improve.

"And as I said after the last game he has a great challenge to face individually, of course he helps the team a lot, but individually he has to rebel against a situation that's not usual for him."

Atletico Madrid striker Alvaro Morata has sustained a knee injury in training, the LaLiga club announced.

Morata twisted his knee during Wednesday's session with Diego Simeone's squad and tests confirmed a "moderate sprain".

A timescale has not been placed upon the 26-year-old's recovery at this stage but he will sit out training on Thursday.

Atleti have started their LaLiga campaign with back-to-back 1-0 wins over Getafe and Leganes.

Spain international Morata scored in the first of those matches but missed a second-half penalty.

Simeone's men are back in action at home to Eibar on Sunday.

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone said Joao Felix has to keep improving following his LaLiga bow against Getafe, while fellow debutant Kieran Trippier earned praised after setting up the winning goal.

Joao Felix had his first taste of Spanish top-flight football as Atletico opened their LaLiga campaign with a 1-0 victory thanks to Alvaro Morata's 23rd-minute header at home to Getafe on Sunday.

A club-record €126million signing from Benfica, Joao Felix was largely subdued by Getafe, but the 19-year-old did produce a stunning solo run from inside his own half to earn a second-half penalty, which Morata failed to convert.

Discussing Joao Felix's debut at the Wanda Metropolitano – where the Portuguese sensation was substituted in the 66th minute following a knock – Simeone told reporters: "The first league game is not easy. It's complex.

"A rival who tactically moves well defensively. They have not left him space in the first half so that he can take advantage of his game.

"But in an individual action showed his power and hopefully these situations appear with more continuity. He has to keep improving."

England international full-back Trippier also made his LaLiga debut alongside Joao Felix and Renan Lodi, after arriving from Champions League finalists Tottenham in the off-season.

Trippier provided the inch-perfect cross for Morata to head past David Soria in Madrid, while Lodi was sent off following two yellow cards in quick succession prior to half-time after Getafe's Jorge Molina had been controversially sent off at the conclusion of a VAR review moments earlier.

"He played very well with depth, quality and precision," Simeone said of Trippier. "His cross to Morata was great and he found a specialist like Morata."

On Morata – who led the line in the absence of injured team-mate Diego Costa – Simeone added: "From him I expect what he did in the whole game today. Obviously having more forcefulness on the penalty, but Morata's match was fantastic, he fought all the balls, scored a goal and constantly generated danger."

Simeone was also asked about Valencia forward Rodrigo Moreno, who has been tipped to join Atletico before the transfer windows shuts on September 2.

"We cannot talk about Rodrigo, because he is in Valencia. We have to talk about the players who are here," Simeone said.

Alvaro Morata's first-half goal earned Atletico Madrid a 1-0 win over Getafe as they made a victorious start to the new LaLiga season.

Morata converted a cross from new signing Kieran Trippier, who impressed on his debut, 23 minutes into the first half at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Getafe's Jorge Molina and Atletico's Renan Lodi were both sent off in quick succession as events took a dramatic turn before half-time.

Morata spurned the opportunity to claim a second when he saw a penalty saved in the second half after fine work from Joao Felix, who caught the eye before being substituted after an awkward fall in the 66th minute.

But Atletico held on to a hard-fought victory regardless.

It was a close-season of change at Atletico with the departure of Antoine Griezmann to Barcelona and an influx of new arrivals including €126million Joao Felix and England international Trippier.

The former Tottenham defender claimed his first assist, delivering a pinpoint cross from the right which was powerfully headed home by Morata.

It was no more than the home side deserved after a dominant start and they were dealt a further boost when Molina saw his initial yellow card switched to red following a VAR consultation after he caught Thomas Partey's heel with his studs.

Yet, in a dramatic end to the half, Atletico were also reduced to 10 men after Lodi, making his debut, received two yellow cards in quick succession, his second for appearing to catch Damian Suarez's face in an aerial duel.

After the break, a sensational run from Joao Felix ended with him being poleaxed for a penalty in the 56th minute, only for Morata to see his spot kick saved superbly by David Soria.

Joao Felix was soon replaced by fellow new signing Marcos Llorente after receiving medical attention and Diego Simeone's side managed to cling on to the three points despite Angel Rodriguez hitting the crossbar from long-range late on.

Diego Costa scored four goals as Atletico Madrid humiliated LaLiga rivals Real Madrid 7-3 in an incredible display at the International Champions Cup.

Atletico showed no mercy in New Jersey, where Diego Simeone's men led 5-0 at half-time thanks to Costa's first-half hat-trick on Friday.

Big-money signing Joao Felix scored his first goal since arriving from Benfica and set up two others, while Angel Correa was also on target in a sensationally one-sided first half at MetLife Stadium.

Costa teamed up with Joao Felix to add his fourth six minutes into the second half before he was sent off after clashing with Dani Carvajal, which sparked a melee.

Vitolo scored a sensational solo goal in the 70th minute after Nacho Fernandez reduced the deficit on the hour-mark, while Madrid substitute Karim Benzema converted an 85th-minute penalty and Javi Hernandez bundled the ball over the line late.

Atletico were ruthless from the outset, last season's runners-up breaking the deadlock after just 43 seconds when Joao Felix played a neat pass to Costa, whose deflected shot beat Thibaut Courtois.

That was a sign of things to come as Joao Felix made it 2-0 less than seven minutes later – the former Benfica teenager stepping in front of Marcelo and side-footing from close range after Saul Niguez cut a pass back into the penalty area.

After a lively Alvaro Morata left the field due to an apparent calf injury, his replacement Correa – linked to AC Milan – put Atletico 3-0 ahead in the 19th minute with a volley past Courtois.

While Joao Felix and Costa continued to wreak havoc, Madrid's woes were compounded by what appeared to be a knee injury to new signing Luka Jovic, who had to be substituted following a collision with Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak.

Madrid's defensive problems were highlighted again as Atletico went 4-0 ahead in the 28th minute – Saul winning the ball after a bad pass from Ramos and sliding in a simple pass for Costa and he made no mistake.

Hermoso and Thomas Lemar also went close, while Vinicius Junior hit the post for Madrid. But Atletico netted their fourth on the stroke of half-time after Costa completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot following Isco's foul.

Atletico did not take their foot off the pedal in the second half – Felix and Costa continuing their frightening combination as the former split Madrid's defence with a delightful pass and the former scooped the ball over Keylor Navas in the 51st minute.

Eden Hazard was virtually non-existent in first half, but the Belgian star showed a flash of brilliance to help Madrid pull a goal back on the hour-mark, crossing the ball into the six-yard box for Nacho to bundle the ball over the line.

There was a flashpoint five minutes later when Costa and Carvajal were both sent off after the pair and both teams came together as tempers threatened to boil over.

It got worse for Madrid after Vitolo won the ball from two defenders on the half-way line and beat another two opponents before finding the back of the net following a stunning solo run with 20 minutes remaining.

Atletico were hungry for more and they should have scored another two or three goals but some desperate goalkeeping and defending denied Los Rojiblancos, while Benzema and Hernandez added goals for Madrid late in the game.

Diego Costa scored a first-half hat-trick as Atletico Madrid humiliated LaLiga rivals Real Madrid by taking a 5-0 lead into half-time in their International Champions Cup clash.

Atletico showered no mercy in New Jersey, where big-money signing Joao Felix and substitute Angel Correa also scored in an incredibly one-sided first half on Friday.

The first-half rout, which saw Luka Jovic suffer an apparent knee injury, comes after Marco Asensio ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament and external meniscus in the 2-2 draw with Arsenal – who had led 2-0 at half-time.

Madrid – who finished third behind champions Barca and runners-up Atletico last season – were also beaten 3-1 by Bayern Munich in their pre-season opener.

Alvaro Morata will make a full-time switch to Atletico Madrid for the 2020-21 season after the LaLiga side agreed terms with Chelsea to make his loan move permanent.

Spain striker Morata left Chelsea for the Wanda Metropolitano on an 18-month loan in January and the clubs have now confirmed he will not return to Stamford Bridge.

Atleti are believed to have agreed to pay around £50million after Chelsea reportedly threatened to activate a recall clause inserted into the 26-year-old's loan contract.

Morata, who netted six LaLiga goals in the second half of last season, will formally remain on loan with Diego Simeone's men throughout the 2018-19 campaign, before the terms of his permanent contract are enacted.

Atleti have been busy in close-season, with news of the Morata agreement following the arrivals of midfielders Marcos Llorente and Hector Herrera, centre-back Felipe and teenager Joao Felix, signed from Benfica for €126m.

It also ends the former Real Madrid and Juventus striker's difficult stint in London.

Morata managed 16 goals over one and a half seasons in the Premier League but never convinced as a long-term successor to Diego Costa, now his team-mate at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Ex-Blues boss Maurizio Sarri sanctioned his departure and brought in Gonzalo Higuain as a replacement to limited success, with the Argentina striker having now returned to Juventus with the Blues opting not to extend his loan.

Frank Lampard will not have the opportunity to reinvest the funds, however, with Chelsea in the midst of a two-transfer ban, which the club appealed against to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Romelu Lukaku has been strongly linked with Inter, but it appears Juventus are also interested in the Manchester United striker.

Lukaku, 26, looks set to leave Old Trafford this close season, having struggled to have the same impact at United as he did at Everton.

Inter seemed set to be the Belgium international's most likely destination, but Juve are interested, or likely at least driving up the price for their rivals.

 

TOP STORY – JUVENTUS MAKE LUKAKU APPROACH

According to Sky Sport Italia, Juventus have approached Manchester United about Lukaku.

Such a move would be a blow to Inter, who looked favourites to sign Lukaku, with an exit seemingly looming for Mauro Icardi.

Gianluca Di Marzio reports there is uncertainty over how serious Juventus are about a move for Lukaku.

 

ROUND-UP

- Juventus are also linked with Icardi, who is a reported target for Napoli. La Gazzetta dello Sport report Napoli are ready to offer €60million for the forward.

- Atletico Madrid are ready to complete a deal for Alvaro Morata. The forward joined the LaLiga club in January on an 18-month loan deal from Chelsea, but Atletico are reported to have a purchase option. Sport say they are ready to pay €55m (£49.3m) for Morata, potentially as soon as this close season.

- Arsenal need to strengthen but it seems any movement from the Emirates Stadium is happening slowly. AS report the Premier League club are in negotiations with Real Madrid over Lucas Vazquez, prepared to pay £31.4m (€35m) for the attacker. Arsenal may finally find an exit for Mesut Ozil, with TRT Spor reporting Turkish giants Fenerbahce could take the playmaker on loan.

- Staying in London, Tottenham could be set to sign Real Madrid's Dani Ceballos on loan. AS report Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino spoke to Ceballos about a move, and Sport say any deal would be a one-year loan agreement as the 22-year-old is eager to prove himself at the Santiago Bernabeu.

- Spurs are also reportedly interested in Real Madrid's Mariano. Tottenham have enquired about Mariano, according to AS, while Roma are also interested in the 25-year-old forward.

- Forget Manchester United and Tottenham, Youri Tielemans has chosen Leicester City. Having spent the second half of last season on loan at Leicester from Monaco, Tielemans is close to finalising a permanent move to the King Power Stadium, according to The Sun.

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