Diego Simeone hinted at the idea he could leave Atletico Madrid at the end of the season after their awful Copa del Rey defeat to third-tier Cornella.

Simeone's LaLiga leaders exited the Copa on Wednesday, losing 1-0 to a goal from former Atletico B defender Adrian Jimenez.

Ricard Sanchez was sent off as Atleti slumped to a shock reverse swiftly described by the Spanish media as a "disaster" among the very worst of Simeone's 502 games in charge of the club.

The long-time coach named a strong side, including record signing Joao Felix, but saw his team remarkably unable to register a single shot on target.

Copa failings are a familiar story by now, though, with the Rojiblancos losing to Cultural Leonesa last season. Meanwhile, they have not beaten a fellow LaLiga outfit in the competition since seeing off Elche in January 2017.

Simeone recognised Atleti are struggling in one-off knockout matches - also losing in last season's Champions League to RB Leipzig - but added the surprising qualifier that it would be an issue to consider only if he was still at the helm next year.

"[Cornella] played better," he said. "In the whole game, what they wanted was always done better than what we wanted.

"They took advantage of the set-piece situations and immediately found the goal.

"The boys tried to compete in the best way. In the first half, we had more chances, and in the second, it was rockier. It got difficult after the red card.

"This competition has not given us satisfaction in recent years but solutions will have to be found if we are here next year."

Saul Niguez, captain on the night, identified the same problem as he added: "We apologise to the fans. We never throw away competitions, but in these single-game editions we are not doing well."

Given Atleti's struggles, the decision to replace Joao Felix with 18-year-old debutant Mario Soriano 15 minutes from time prompted some discussion.

But the Portugal international mustered only one shot, which was blocked, prior to his withdrawal and failed to create a single chance - unlike his replacement.

Joao Felix epitomised the visitors' display as he completed just 13 of his 21 attempted passes and lost possession 13 times, winning none of his three aerial duels.

The change still appeared a big call, yet Simeone explained his star forward was struggling with an ankle injury.

"He was hurt," Simeone said. "We looked for a fresher guy. He had a bruised ankle and we wanted to find a guy in good condition."

Atletico Madrid were the victims of a Copa del Rey giant-killing for a second successive season as Diego Simeone's side went down 1-0 to Cornella.

LaLiga leaders Atleti lost 2-1 to Cultural Leonesa in the round of 32 last season, and slumped out to Segunda B opposition on Wednesday.

The 10-time Copa winners fell behind to Adrian Jimenez's sensational flick seven minutes into the second-round tie in Catalonia.

Saul Niguez hit the woodwork and Lucas Torreira went close with a free-kick, but Ricard Sanchez's second booking compounded Atleti's issues as minnows Cornella claimed a famous triumph.

Sanchez was fortunate not to concede a penalty for handball in the opening minutes, before Jose Gimenez, making his 200th Atleti appearance, scythed down Raul Prieto.

With Gimenez, who was booked for his troubles, off the pitch receiving treatment, Cornella added insult to injury, with Agus Medina's cross flicked home expertly by Jimenez.

Atleti seemed set to restore parity shortly after the 20-minute mark, yet Angel Correa saw two efforts blocked either side of Saul hitting the crossbar.

Though Atleti were seeing over 60 per cent possession, they would have been 2-0 down heading into the break if not for Miguel San Roman's save from Pablo Fernandez.

Vitolo got in behind Cornella's backline early in the second half, only for an errant offside flag to deny him a chance to equalise.

Torreira's curling free-kick was inches away from levelling proceedings, though Atleti were then fortunate that Eloy Gila flicked over from close range at the other end.

Sanchez's frustrating night was made worse when he was deemed to have kicked out at Cornella goalkeeper Ramon Juan – the full-back seeing red just 11 minutes after receiving his first booking as Atleti's comeback efforts proved futile. 

Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone welcomed Kieran Trippier back to training after his 10-week suspension for betting offences was put on hold by FIFA.

The 30-year-old defender was issued with the ban and a fine of £70,000 on December 23 after the Football Association (FA) found him guilty of four of seven alleged breaches of rule E8(1)(b).

Atletico appealed against the punishment to FIFA, and world football's governing body has cleared Trippier to play while its appeal committee considers the matter.

In the written reasons explaining its independent regulatory commission's decision, which the FA published on Tuesday, it was revealed Trippier told a friend, "Lump on if you want mate" in one of a series messages on a WhatsApp group discussing the progress of his €22million transfer to Atleti in July 2019.

Trippier's claim that the messages were "banter" did not pass muster with the commission and it was discovered one of his friends, Oliver Hawley, placed 10 separate bets between £20 and £65 on the right-back joining Atletico.

Matthew Brady, who asked Trippier, "Shall I lump on you going there?" and two other friends placed further bets ranging from £20 and £300.

"It [the ban] is on hold. We have Trippier back with us," Simeone said.

"I gave him a hug and they will tell me more in the coming days."

However, the former Tottenham player might have to wait for his return to action and will not feature in Wednesday's Copa del Rey tie at Cornella.

"He is training away from the group. Tomorrow, he will not take part in the game," Simeone confirmed.

As part of its investigation, the FA took into account witness statements on Trippier's behalf from England manager Gareth Southgate and Three Lions captain Harry Kane.

So far this season, he has played 19 matches in all competitions for Atletico.

 

 

Andriy Shevchenko is in the conversation to take over as Chelsea manager if the Blues decide to part ways with manager Frank Lampard.

With Chelsea languishing in ninth place in the Premier League table, Le10sport reports the Ukrainian's name is on the Blues list of possible replacements.

Shevchenko played for the club between 2006 and 2008 and has since forged a managerial career with the Ukraine national team, moving through the under-19 and under-21 teams to the senior dugout.

 

TOP STORY – SHEVCHENKO BEING CONSIDERED AS NEXT CHELSEA MANAGER

Chelsea are studying their options to replace Lampard and his former Blues team-mate Shevchenko is part of the shortlist, reports Le10sports.

The 44-year-old led Ukraine through an undefeated Euro 2020 qualifying campaign to reach the finals, drawing 0-0 in Portugal and beating the European champions 2-1, in Kiev.

Shevchenko remains close to the club as his 14-year-old son, Kristian, plays in the Blues academy and is well liked by club owner Roman Abramovich, say Le10sports sources.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kieran Trippier's 10-week suspension for betting offences has been put on hold by FIFA following an appeal by Atletico Madrid.

The defender was issued a ban and a fine of £70,000 on December 23 after the Football Association found him guilty of four of seven alleged breaches of rule E8(1)(b).

The regulation states: "Where a participant provides to any other person any information relating to football which the participant has obtained by virtue of his or her position within the game and which is not publicly available at that time, the participant shall be in breach of this rule where any of that information is used by that other person for, or in relation to, betting."

Trippier, who denied the charges, was facing the prospect of missing 14 Atletico games up until February 28, a run that includes the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Chelsea.

However, the 30-year-old England international will be free to play again while the appeal process continues.

A FIFA spokesperson confirmed on Sunday: "Following the appeal and, specifically, the request for provisional measures lodged by the club Atletico Madrid, the FIFA Appeal Committee has approved to stay the extension of the suspension against Kieran Trippier until the procedure is over before the FIFA Appeal Committee."

Trippier will miss Sunday's game between Atleti and Deportivo Alaves after being left out of the squad.

The former Tottenham man has played in 19 matches in all competitions this season for the LaLiga title-hopefuls, who are a point behind Real Madrid at the top of the table but with three games in hand.

Lucas Vazquez has vowed that Real Madrid will “keep fighting right until the end” in the LaLiga title race but he admits that city rivals Atletico Madrid have the edge.

Vazquez netted the opener in Real’s 2-0 victory against Celta Vigo on Saturday as Zinedine Zidane’s side took over top spot for the first time since October.

A run of three losses in six games saw their lead slip in November but Real have now moved ahead of Atleti by a single point, although Diego Simeone’s side have three games in hand.

Real are defending champions and the competition's most successful club but, although his side are on top, Spain attacker Vazquez admits he does not believe Zidane’s team has the advantage.

"The league has been very competitive. There are no easy games because every team makes it difficult for us," the 29-year-old said.

"Atletico has the advantage, but we’ll keep fighting right until the end for everything".

Zinedine Zidane is aiming to "take advantage of the moment" at Real Madrid as he is unsure how long his Santiago Bernabeu reign will last.

The four-year anniversary of Zidane's initial appointment at Madrid is approaching, but the head coach revealed last month he was not discussing an extension to a contract that expires in 2022.

The Frenchman was asked prior to Saturday's game against Celta Vigo if another four years at Madrid - this time unbroken by a spell away - could be on the cards.

However, unable to provide any promises over a long-term stay, Zidane responded: "It takes a lot out of you, but it's a great position here.

"I'm lucky enough to say I'm manager of Real Madrid and take advantage of every moment. I can't say a month, a year or four years. Life is just about the day to day.

"That's what I'm interested in: the day to day, to give everything I can, in every training session, every game. That's what I'm interested in.

"The rest? I don't know what's going to happen in one week. That's why we have to take advantage of the moment."

Zidane will hope to have added to his 11 major honours by the time he does depart, although this season's LaLiga title race is far from straightforward.

Defending champions Madrid can at least briefly move above Atletico Madrid if they beat Celta, against whom they are unbeaten in 12 in LaLiga, but Zidane's men have already played two more games than their city rivals.

It is advantage Atleti for now, yet the former Ballon d'Or winner is not overly concerned.

"Being first means you have an advantage, and that's it," Zidane explained. "We just have to keep on going. We can't control [Atleti being favourites].

"They have an advantage because they're first, and that's it. People are speaking a lot about Atletico now, because, as I said, they're first.

"But the nice thing about this league, right up until the end, it's going to be an open league - as it always is. We'll see."

Despite their strong recent record against Celta - scoring in 28 consecutive home LaLiga meetings, their longest ongoing such run against any side - Madrid were held 2-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu last season.

Eighth-placed Celta could draw against Madrid in consecutive matches for the first time since May 2003.

Diego Simeone has been taking his Atletico Madrid tenure "game by game" for nine years and now, 500 games in, is keen to ensure standards do not slip in 2021.

Atletico head coach Simeone oversaw a 1-0 LaLiga win over Getafe on Wednesday to mark his 500th match in charge of the club in all competitions, trailing only Luis Aragones (611).

Luis Suarez's eighth league goal for Atletico secured maximum points midweek that ensured Simeone's high-flying side would head into the new year top of the table.

But reflecting on his approach when returning to Atleti as coach in December 2011, Simeone explained he has rarely looked beyond the next game – for now Deportivo Alaves on Sunday.

"Since I arrived when I got together with Miguel [Angel Gil Marin, CEO] and Enrique [Cerezo, president], I told them let's go game by game," the 50-year-old said after the Getafe game.

"That is my feeling, playing each game as if it were the last until situations lead me to leave Atletico or not."

As well as leading LaLiga at the end of December, Atleti have completed a calendar year without losing at home in the league for the first time since 1998, winning 14 and drawing the other four of their 18 matches.

But Simeone is not interested in their 2020 achievements, preferring to focus on the campaign as a whole.

"We cannot consider the years as a year but as a season," he explained. "Last season we achieved our goal of reaching the Champions League and we managed to settle in that place that allows us to continue growing.

"The Copa del Rey went very badly, where we were eliminated in the first round. In the Champions League, we were excited after the game against Liverpool, but then we fell in the quarter-finals.

"So we started over. We started well, as we have been playing since the pandemic ended, with the team very motivated. And now we have to continue."

Asked what his wish might be for the coming 12 months, though, Simeone highlighted the public health situation rather than his team's title tilt.

"It would be too selfish if, in the moment we are living, we think about football," Simeone said amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"Hopefully we can hug a friend again, be able to celebrate a birthday again, get back to normal. Health; above all, I ask for health."

Atleti's latest win continued a remarkable record against Getafe under Simeone, playing 18 matches without conceding (16 wins, two goalless draws).

But Simeone guarded against complacency, adding: "These are situations.

"Atletico spent 14 years without beating Real Madrid. It has been quite a few games since we beat Barcelona. But that was until one day. We face each game with the same passion."

Diego Simeone became just the second Atletico Madrid coach to reach 500 games in charge as his side beat Getafe 1-0 on Wednesday.

Simeone trails only Luis Aragones (611 matches) in all competitions, with the same two men atop the club's LaLiga list - Simeone on 340, Aragones on 407.

The victory over Getafe courtesy of a Luis Suarez goal, consolidating top spot, was the incumbent coach's 301st.

A second LaLiga title triumph under Simeone is in Atleti's sights this season, yet 'El Cholo' is already their most successful coach.

His seven major honours are just clear of Aragones' six, and Simeone has the best LaLiga win ratio - 60.2 per cent - of all Rojiblanco bosses to manage at least 32 matches

The outstanding statistics do not stop there, though.
 

DEFENSIVELY DOMINANT

Few would argue Simeone's sides are the most exciting to watch, but they are certainly tough to beat.

Simeone has overseen 183 LaLiga clean sheets as Atleti coach, the most of any Rojiblanco boss in the history of the competition.

And since the start of the 2012-13 season, his first full campaign in charge, Atleti lead the way in Europe's top five leagues with 173 clean sheets in 318 matches. Paris Saint-Germain are next on that list with 158 shutouts in 310 Ligue 1 games.

It should come as no surprise then that Atleti have also conceded the fewest goals on the continent over the same period.

Their defence has been breached just 214 times - 0.67 per game - with Juventus second having shipped 228 in Serie A.

EL CHOLO'S FAVOURITE FOES

Simeone shows no signs of stopping, which will continue to concern poor Getafe.

Wednesday's match was Simeone's 18th meeting with Getafe and, quite remarkably, his team are yet to concede a single goal against them, recording 16 wins alongside two goalless draws.

That is Simeone's best record against any one side, while Atleti also enjoyed their biggest win of his tenure versus Getafe, a 7-0 triumph in November 2013.

Real Madrid are the opponents Simeone has faced most often, on 33 occasions, while Barcelona have beaten the 50-year-old 15 times, representing another high.

EUROPA LEAGUE EUPHORIA

Champions League glory has evaded Simeone despite reaching two finals, losing to rivals Madrid in 2014 and 2016.

But the Atleti coach has delivered international success in the Europa League. The Spanish side won that competition in 2012 and 2018, adding UEFA Super Cup titles on each occasion, with Simeone claiming more trophies in Europe than in domestic action.

Only Unai Emery - in 2014, 2015 and 2016 - has won the Europa League more often.

And the Europa League is the competition in which Simeone has enjoyed his best winning record, coming out on top in 21 of their 26 matches (80.8 per cent).

Lionel Messi's future has been the subject of much speculation but a reunion with Pep Guardiola is still very much in Manchester City's plans.

Messi has been disgruntled with his situation at Barcelona since the end of last season, despite head coach Ronald Koeman's insistence that his superstar captain is happy.

Four-time Champions League winner Messi unsuccessfully tried to force an exit in August, however there will be no legal clauses to stop him when his contract expires in June 2021.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI WANTED ON FIVE-YEAR DEAL

The City Football Group (CFG) is eyeing a 2021 swoop that will see Lionel Messi split time between their Premier League powerhouse Manchester City and MLS franchise New York City, according to the Telegraph.

A five-year contract could be offered to superstar Barcelona captain Messi, which includes three years in England, taking the six-time Ballon d'Or winner to the age of 37, followed by an additional two more in the United States.

In an interview with Spanish TV channel La Sexta, Messi admitted his desire to one day play in the United States, a hint that City's proposal may be on his mind.

Diego Costa is poised to become a prize catch for one club in the days ahead, but what does the former Atletico Madrid striker have in mind?

He was released from his contract with LaLiga's leaders on Tuesday but looks set to make a swift return to football.

Atleti head coach Diego Simeone said he expects Costa to make a success of his next move, with the likes of Benfica, Arsenal and Wolves already linked with the fiery frontman.

Perhaps Costa will favour a move home to play in his native Brazil, or could MLS beckon?

Could Costa light up the Primeira Liga?

Benfica were linked with Costa in the previous close season, but nothing came of their reported interest. However, the Portuguese giants may still fancy a shot at bringing him to the Estadio da Luz.

They sit five points behind leaders Sporting CP this season, with Switzerland international Haris Seferovic their leading scorer with six goals in just three starts and six substitute appearances.

Would Costa fancy the Portuguese league, which he left behind 13 years ago when departing Braga to head to Spain? A Europa League campaign might bolster the appeal, with Benfica drawn to face Arsenal in the first knockout round.

Is he going to be a Gunner?

Given he was a hate figure for many Arsenal fans during his time at Chelsea, when he was a two-time Premier League winner, it would seem inconceivable for Costa to move to Emirates Stadium.

But needs must, and Arsenal might benefit from some of his attitude and knowhow up front as they battle to climb the Premier League table from a lowly standing.

Reports in Spain have suggested Arsenal's interest is genuine, with the club willing to let bygones be bygones and embrace a former fierce rival.

Whatever would they make of it at Chelsea?

Wolves at the door

There is plenty of circumstantial evidence to suggest a switch to Wolves could be a goer.

Costa's agent is Jorge Mendes, whose influence has helped the Premier League club build a squad with the talent to challenge for a top-six place.

And with Raul Jimenez sidelined after the serious head injury he sustained at Arsenal in November, Wolves could certainly do with an experienced addition to their forward ranks.

Costa might fancy joining a pack of underdogs, and his prospects of regular top-flight football would appear to be good.

Homeward bound

Perhaps the player who left Brazil as a teenager to seek footballing fame and fortune in Europe could be about to announce a return home.

Costa never played professional club football in Brazil and it may hold some appeal before he hangs up his boots.

There might be some making up to do before that happens, however, given he controversially turned his back on Brazil in 2013, in favour of playing international football for Spain.

The MLS route

A player of Costa's stature could be a big draw in MLS, given his achievements in Europe, his background, and his eye-catching style of play.

Goals have been hard to come by in  LaLiga for Costa during his second spell with Atletico, and there may be some appeal in moving to a league where not only would he be assured regular football, but the goals may come more easily.

If Lionel Messi is considering a future move to the United States, then clearly it is below no one, and Costa may relish seeing out his career in the growing league.

Diego Costa was hailed by Diego Simeone as "a fighter" who still has a future in football as the striker's Atletico Madrid career came to an end on Tuesday.

The 32-year-old former Spain international has been a fringe member of the Atletico side this season, making just seven LaLiga appearances and scoring twice.

He was due to reach the end of his contract at the end of the campaign but that has been effectively ripped up, allowing Costa to find a new club.

Costa asked to leave Atletico, citing personal reasons, and has been linked with a return to the Premier League, having previously played in England with Chelsea.

Speaking at a news conference, Simeone appeared to indicate the often fiery forward would be leaving Spain.

"The club have been able to help him without being harmed and that generates peace of mind," said Simeone.

A move to a LaLiga rival on a free transfer is reportedly not on the cards due to clauses built into Costa's exit settlement.

"You know that we love Diego, we have spent a lot of time together in the best way, we gave each other a lot and we have talked with him," Simeone said.

"He also has the need to find new challenges because he is well, strong and I cannot imagine another scenario other than him going on to do good things, because he is a fighter.

"[We want] to thank him, as with all the people who have given us their hearts, and Diego has been one of them from the sporting and human point of view.

"[I] hope that he finds the best way and to be able to hug each other when we meet again, since we have not seen each other for a couple of days because he did not come to train while he was negotiating.

"The most beautiful thing that remains is that we can hug each other when we see each other, celebrate and remember."

Costa scored 83 goals and provided 36 assists in 215 games for Atleti, where he first arrived in 2006 aged only 17.

He won the LaLiga title at the capital club in the 2013-14 season and has also lifted the Copa del Rey and Europa League with Atleti, as well as twice being a Premier League champion during his three-year stay at Chelsea.

Diego Costa has left Atletico Madrid after reaching an agreement to terminate his contract.

Costa's deal was due to expire at the end of this season, but the LaLiga leaders have allowed the striker to make an early exit.

The former Spain international has made just seven appearances for Diego Simeone's side this season, scoring twice.

Atleti said in a statement on Tuesday: "Agreement with @diegocosta for the termination of his contract. The club wishes the striker the best of luck in the next stage of his professional career."

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