Alvaro Morata scored for the sixth match running as Atletico Madrid returned to winning ways, beating Espanyol 3-1 at home to remain within touch with the top two in LaLiga.

Striker Morata, recalled to the Spain squad this week, has discovered his best form but Atleti had been struggling, winless in three in all competitions heading into this match.

Espanyol looked capable of furthering their misery for 45 minutes, too, leading through Sergi Darder's strike, until Morata created the leveller for Angel Correa in first-half stoppage time.

Morata, who had earlier squandered a clear opening, himself struck early in the second period, and Koke added a late third for Diego Simeone's men to move back within a point of leaders Barcelona and second-placed Real Madrid, both of whom won on Saturday.

Morata missed a huge chance to extend his outstanding scoring streak after 16 minutes, running onto Vitolo's measured pass and lifting the ball over Diego Lopez but missing the right-hand post.

Espanyol started to forge their own opportunities at the other end, however, and Darder was clinical, pouncing on a slack exchange between Thomas Partey and Koke to lash high past Jan Oblak.

Yet Morata was influential as Atleti got back on level terms on the stroke of half-time, with the forward reaching the byline and lifting a cross onto Correa's head for a simple finish.

The VAR confirmed Morata was onside in the build-up, much to Espanyol's frustration, as Naldo - earlier substituted injured having been run ragged by Vitolo - was booked on the bench for his protests.

There was a flurry of activity at the start of the second half, with Atleti denied a penalty as David Lopez and Felipe clashed, before Morata made amends for his earlier miss, holding off a recovering defender to beat Diego Lopez with a right-footed effort.

Espanyol still might have recovered a draw, but David Lopez was penalised for a foul on Koke prior to heading beyond Oblak, although the Atleti captain appeared to have tangled with a team-mate as he clutched his face.

Instead, Koke settled matters at the end of a rapid counter-attack, controlling substitute Diego Costa's cutback and sliding low into the net.

Diego Simeone has demanded greater consistency from Atletico Madrid if his side are to challenge Real Madrid and Barcelona for this season's LaLiga title.

Atleti sit fourth after 12 games, winning five and drawing six with one defeat, heading into Sunday's meeting with Espanyol - who beat Ludogorets 6-0 in Europe on Thursday but have lost their last two league matches.

Los Rojiblancos are just two points behind current leaders Real Sociedad, though could have - temporarily at least - moved top themselves last week had they overcome Sevilla.

A defeat to Bayer Leverkusen in Wednesday's Champions League encounter means Atleti are now without a win in their last three matches in all competitions, and Simeone acknowledged his side - who have been hit by injuries to Jose Gimenez, Stefan Savic and Joao Felix - must regain the consistency which has made them regular title contenders in recent seasons.

"We keep thinking about the match. On Saturday, we play against an opponent with an important motivation with the new coach and it will be a complex match," Simeone told a news conference when asked if Atleti could challenge their city rivals and Barca.

"It is complex. We have three important players injured, Joao Felix, Savic and Gimenez. When they are all fit we have more strength and competition. We need to convince ourselves of what we can do and from that find the consistency, which is what we are looking for.

"There are good passages, other bad ones and we need to work on concentration. That is what you get on the field, not from words. It is given by training and matches.

"We want to keep improving and our thinking does not go beyond the match against Espanyol."

Diego Simeone insists his faith in Diego Costa is unwavering due to the striker's work rate, even as a missed penalty cost Atletico Madrid two points at Sevilla.

Atleti recovered from a first-half deficit to draw 1-1, thanks largely to the introduction of Costa and his nuisance factor from the bench at half-time.

The former Chelsea star had a goal disallowed shortly before Alvaro Morata equalised, but he then passed up the opportunity to clinch victory and send Simeone's men top of LaLiga.

Tomas Vaclik denied Costa from 12 yards, meaning he has still scored just twice in all competitions this season.

Simeone came to his player's defence, though, saying: "Diego is at his best physical moment, taking care of himself, training, working. He works but can't find the goal.

"When someone works like Diego, there are two options: either you are with Costa or not with Costa. If you give your all, like Costa, I trust him."

Sevilla likewise could have moved to LaLiga's summit with a victory, with Barcelona beaten at Levante earlier in the day, and Simeone believes Julen Lopetegui's side can be a threat this season.

"I see them doing very well. They always compete well," he said. "They have many players, a deep squad, which means they can make changes.

"They had two injured midfielders. Fernando did not play today. If they are consistent, they will compete."

However, midfielder Koke was frustrated Atleti were not able to beat Sevilla, believing their second-half performance – with Costa in the side – deserved to be rewarded.

"Especially in the second half, we did enough to win the game," he said. "There was a goal disallowed, we had a penalty, we created chances. We left two points on the field in such a complicated game.

"We have to continue working as we did in the second half. We recovered from the Sevilla goal and, in the second half, they had absolutely nothing. This is the standard – we have to keep working.

"We want victories because LaLiga is a bit strange, the big teams are not winning games, but we have to keep working."

Diego Costa saw a penalty saved as Sevilla and Atletico Madrid each failed to capitalise on Barcelona's defeat earlier on Saturday, playing out a 1-1 draw in Diego Simeone's 300th game as a LaLiga coach.

Barca had collapsed at Levante and, with Real Madrid not in action until later in the day, the winner of this clash would top the table.

But Atleti - hailed as "one of the best five teams in the world" by Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui this week - failed to fire for 45 minutes and trailed to Franco Vazquez's header.

Costa arrived from the bench at half-time and Simeone's men started to turn the screw, equalising through Alvaro Morata.

Then Costa, who earlier saw a goal disallowed by the VAR, was denied by Tomas Vaclik with 18 minutes remaining as Atleti fell short of the three points that would take them to the summit.

Simeone had hinted at changes for this match and, after a midweek draw with Deportivo Alaves, he reverted to the XI that defeated Athletic Bilbao last week, with Morata preferred to Costa.

But chances were at a premium for both sides early on, before some uncharacteristically slack Atletico defending allowed Vazquez to nod the opener after 28 minutes.

Ever Banega delivered a free-kick from the right corner of the penalty area and Vazquez, allowed to drift into space in the middle of the box, sent a downward header beyond Jan Oblak, who got a hand to the ball and might have done better.

Costa's introduction at the interval appeared to have paid off after just 10 minutes of the second half as he towered above his marker to head into the net, yet VAR intervened as Angel Correa, supplying the cross, was marginally offside.

Sevilla were now on the back foot, though, and another move down the right soon led to the leveller as Santiago Arias - also a substitute - stood the ball up for Morata to nod in.

Luuk de Jong wastefully headed wide at the other end, before Costa was given the opportunity to seal a turnaround from 12 yards when Koke was clipped by Nemanja Gudelj as he headed away from goal on the edge of the area.

Vaclik produced an excellent stop from the firm spot-kick, however, and Sevilla held on, surviving in part thanks to a miraculous stoppage-time block from Jules Kounde on the goal line as Morata pounced on a rebound.

 

What does it mean? Atleti issues to iron out

Coming into this match, Simeone acknowledged he had not known his best XI up to this stage. That still appeared to be the case at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan. Atletico looked much better once Costa replaced Thomas Lemar, sending Correa out wide. An off-colour opening 45 minutes cost the visitors the chance to go top, although Costa's spot-kick would still have been enough.

Vaclik keeps Costa out

The twin threats of Costa and Morata were too much for Sevilla to handle, with the two men finding space in the area in quick succession for the offside goal and the equaliser that followed. But Vaclik stepped up when Costa looked to hit the net for the second time, protecting a precious point.

Oblak's aberration

As Simeone considers his options, the one man he would have expect to be able to rely on is Oblak. One of the most consistent, outstanding goalkeepers in world football, he should be disappointed with his failure to deal with Vazquez's header in a tight first half. It was the tale of two goalkeepers in Seville.

What's next?

A busy week sees Atletico travel to Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League before hosting Espanyol in LaLiga game 301 for Simeone. Sevilla play Dudelange in the Europa League ahead of their local derby at Real Betis.

A new striker in January is a priority at Manchester United and reports suggest a familiar face could make a sensational return to England.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has previously said the club will be doing business after Christmas, with a striker still required following the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez.

Marcus Rashford has scored three goals in his previous two matches, while Anthony Martial marked his return from injury with a goal against Norwich City last Sunday, but a surprising name could provide the answer to United's depth issues up top.

 

TOP STORY – MANCHESTER UNITED MAKE CONTACT WITH IBRAHIMOVIC

Manchester United have made contact with former striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, according to TuttoMercatoWeb.

Ibrahimovic scored 30 goals in MLS for LA Galaxy in 2019, but they were eliminated from the post-season after a 5-3 defeat to cross-town rivals LAFC in the Western Conference semi-finals last weekend.

Interest in the former Barcelona, Inter Milan and Paris Saint-Germain striker has increased since the end of LA Galaxy's season with the Swede still believing he can contribute at the highest level.

The 38-year-old is currently a free agent and scored 29 goals at Old Trafford in a brief spell with the club previously.

ROUND-UP

- One player who may create funds for Manchester United's January business is defender Chris Smalling, but Corriere dello Sport claim the Red Devils want double the €10 million price Roma are expecting to pay for him. 

- AS are reporting Edinson Cavani is weighing up his future at Paris Saint-Germain with Atletico Madrid and Inter Miami keeping tabs on the Uruguayan.

Stefano Sensi is currently on-loan at Inter Milan from Sassuolo, but Sport claim Sensi's agent is in Barcelona as speculation of a move to the Spanish champions grows.

- The Daily Mail claims Wolves will turn to Lille defender Gabriel Magalhaes in January as they seek reinforcements to cover the injured Willy Boly.

- Chelsea are interested in signing Hertha Berlin winger Javairo Dilrosun when their transfer ban expires, according to Calciomercato.

- L'Equipe say Nantes are among several clubs showing interest in free agent forward Hatem Ben Arfa.

Atletico Madrid are one of the five best teams in the world, according to Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui.

Sevilla and Atletico sit level on 20 points – a total matched by Granada and two fewer than LaLiga leaders Barcelona – ahead of their meeting at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Saturday.

Diego Simeone's side have won just four of their previous 11 matches in all competitions and head into this weekend’s fixture off the back of a 1-1 draw at Deportivo Alaves.

Lopetegui has no doubt about Atleti's quality, though, and expects them to pose the same challenge they always do.

"Atletico Madrid are one of the five best teams in the world," the Sevilla boss told a pre-match news conference on Friday.

"I expect a very tough game, as always against Atletico. It will be very complex because of the quality and intensity they put into everything they do.

"Atleti can do many different things and when they press, they do it very well.

"Simeone's work is beyond doubt. It is unthinkable to be at the level he has been at, and for this length of time. He is doing a fantastic job."

Simeone suggested he could make changes to his Atletico set-up based upon what he has seen from his team in recent weeks.

"We have a broader picture now of what each player gives us," said Simeone. "The coach ends up executing things based on what the on-field actions say.

"We can't move away from what the pitch shows. The on-pitch matters show things that we have to follow. It's what the team needs.

"We're at a stage where we need to keep improving based on games, work, training and competition. That shows you the reality."

Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham may have been humiliated 7-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League, but he is a target for the German giants.

With Niko Kovac overseeing an inconsistent start to the season in Munich, Bayern are reportedly willing to move on from the former Eintracht Frankfurt boss.

That could open the door for Pochettino, whose Tottenham have struggled to reach the heights of last season following their memorable run to the Champions League final.

 

TOP STORY – BAYERN CONSIDER POCH

Bayern Munich are considering Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino as a replacement for Niko Kovac, according to Sport1.

Kovac has found himself under increasing criticism following Bayern's inconsistent start to the season.

Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag – who previously worked with Bayern's reserve team – has also been linked, but sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic has reportedly identified Pochettino as the man to replace Kovac should he depart.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to Mundo Deportivo, Atletico Madrid are eyeing Napoli's Faouzi Ghoulam. The left-back is out of favour and set to leave the Serie A outfit in January.

- Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain are keen to sign Borussia Dortmund's Lukasz Piszczek and Juventus midfielder Emre Can, claims Soccerlink. Piszczek's contract expires at the end of the season, while Can is reportedly eager to leave after being left out of Juve's Champions League squad.

- Sport Bild says Liverpool have joined the race to sign Valencia sensation Ferran Torres. The 19-year-old winger has attracted interest from Dortmund and Barcelona.

Arkadiusz Milik has agreed a contract extension with Napoli, reports Calciomercato. The Poland international's current deal runs out in 2021.

- Former AC Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso is favourite to take charge of Udinese. It comes as Sky Sport Italia, Tuttomercatoweb and La Gazzetta dello Sport claim Igor Tudor's position is being considered after consecutive 7-1 and 4-0 routs in Serie A.

Dortmund have set their sights on Hertha Berlin's Javairo Dilrosun, according to Bild. As the German side reportedly prepare for life without Jadon Sancho amid ongoing links to Manchester United, former Manchester City youth-team player Dilrosun is on their radar.

Kylian Mbappe is the star attraction of the latest Team of the Week on FIFA Ultimate Team after he scored twice for Paris Saint-Germain in the 4-0 Classique win over Marseille on Sunday.

Although the Frenchman has had an injury-hit start to the season, he has still managed to net eight goals in nine appearances across all competitions, with PSG looking sharp.

He is not joined in the team by Jamie Vardy, however. The striker scored a hat-trick as Leicester City equalled the record for the biggest Premier League win when they demolished Southampton 9-0 on Friday.

Instead of the English forward, his Leicester team-mate Ayoze Perez – who also netted a treble – gets the nod, though he only takes a place among the substitutes, with Ben Chilwell the only Foxes star in the starting XI.

Below, we have the full squad of in-form cards that are now up for grabs online.

FUT Team of the Week

GK: Matz Sels (Strasbourg) – 82

CB: Domagoj Vida (Besiktas) – 83

CB: Nicolas Nkoulou (Torino) – 84

LB: Ben Chilwell (Leicester City) – 82

RM: Karim Bellarabi (Bayer Leverkusen) – 84

CM: Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid) – 86

CDM: Fabinho (Liverpool) – 86

LW: Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain) – 90

CAM: Yusuf Yazici (Lille) – 82

ST: Carlos Vela (Los Angeles FC) – 85

ST: Josip Ilicic (Atalanta) – 86

SUBSTITUTES

GK: Gabriel (Lecce) – 81

CB: Bernardo Espinosa (Espanyol) – 81

LM: Christian Pulisic (Chelsea) – 82

CAM: Calvin Stengs (AZ) – 81

RW: Ayoze Perez (Leicester City) – 82

ST: Karl Toko-Ekambi (Villarreal) – 82

ST: Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham) – 82

RESERVES

CAM: Zelimkhan Bakaev (Spartak Moscow) – 78

RM: Maicol Balanta (Independiente Santa Fe) – 75

LM: Amahl Pellegrino (Kristiansund) – 72

ST: Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba (Al Ain) – 79

ST: Eoin Doyle (Swindon Town) – 73

Sergio Ramos' late goal in Real Madrid's Champions League final victory over Atletico Madrid in 2014 may have altered the history of European football, according to Luka Modric.

Madrid trailed to Diego Godin's opener when Ramos forced extra time with a dramatic 93rd-minute header at Estadio da Luz.

Gareth Bale put Carlo Ancelotti's side in front and further goals followed from Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo to seal a 4-1 victory in Lisbon. 

It was Madrid's 10th European Cup - known as 'La Decima' - but their first in 12 years after a series of near misses.

The Spanish giants have since added three more Champions Leagues to their collection, but Modric is unsure whether it would have been possible if not for Ramos' famous goal.

"It's difficult to make such judgements. I don't know," he told Club del Deportista. "It may be the case that this goal changed the history of European football. Real Madrid had already won a lot of trophies, but they hadn't lifted the Champions League trophy for 12 years. 

"This goal changed something, the mentality changed. From that moment we started to be very strong in Europe and teams were afraid of us again. That shows how important mentality is in football. 

"People had spent 12 years talking about La Decima and it became a mental thing. [Jose] Mourinho went to three semi-finals and it was hard to overcome this mental barrier.

"When we reached the final and to win it with that goal, it still gives me goosebumps, we showed such strong character and never gave up."

Modric broke Ronaldo and Lionel Messi's Ballon d'Or stranglehold by winning football's most prestigious individual accolade in 2018.

It capped a memorable year that saw him win his third successive Champions League with Madrid and help Croatia to a first World Cup final, where they were beaten by France.

"That was a recognition of my entire career, but a very special year in particular," Modric said of winning the award. 

"I was lucky enough to win the Champions League again, which isn't easy, and I also reached the World Cup final with a country like Croatia, which for us is something that words just can't describe. 

"I don't like to talk about myself, but I think that, in the individual sense, I played a very good season and the footballing people have recognised that. It's no coincidence when so many people vote for you."

Alvaro Morata insists he is not focusing on his own goalscoring exploits after Atletico Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw by Deportivo Alaves, stating he would just play tennis if individual exploits were important to him.

Atletico produced another underwhelming performance at Mendizorroza on Tuesday but looked to have escaped with all three points when Morata struck 20 minutes from time.

Lucas Perez then scored in style late on with a curling effort, denying Atletico the chance to go top of LaLiga for a few hours.

Morata's effort made it three goals in as many outings for the striker, though his personal form is not his top priority.

"If I worried about myself I would play tennis. I'm as disappointed as everyone else is in the locker room," the Spain international told reporters.

"We had chances and we did not take advantage of them. For us, two points escaped us, but we also have to see the rest of the teams and what they will do on a trip as difficult as this one."

Morata missed a good opportunity to make it 2-0 shortly before Perez's equaliser and coach Diego Simeone believes it would have been game over had Fernando Pacheco not made the save.

"The goalkeeper made a great stop, the ball was not going wide of the goal," Simeone added.

"Alvaro was fine and the goalkeeper kept Alaves in the game because the match was over with the second goal."

Simeone also pointed to Atletico's poor first-half display as a major contributor to failing to claim the win.

"In the first half Alaves were better, they were more intense, more aggressive, pressing well and controlling the second ball," he said.

"Overall, Alaves played a great game in the first half, we did it in the second half. We played well, we had situations, we pressed higher, we played between the lines.

"If we keep playing as in the second half and clearly understand what we did in the first half, we will have done well.

"It's clear that if a team doesn't start well in the first half, it's always the responsibility of the coach, because they were not excited and pumped to do well."

With Barca's 5-1 win over Real Valladolid, Atletico Madrid sit third in LaLiga. Real Sociedad, Real Madrid, Sevilla and Villarreal could all move above them across Wednesday and Thursday.

Diego Simeone says Diego Costa is happy to see Alvaro Morata has found form for Atletico Madrid despite losing his own place in the starting line-up.

Morata came off the bench to score the only goal of the game in the 1-0 Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday and then got the second in Saturday's 2-0 LaLiga defeat of Athletic Bilbao.

While Morata is seemingly growing in confidence, Costa appears to be struggling for meaningful minutes in 2019-20.

The 31-year-old has scored only once from open play this season and was relegated to the role of substitute for the weekend game at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Simeone, though, has dismissed any suggestion Costa is feeling resentment or frustration at Morata's contrasting form.

"He looks happy that Morata has scored and that he has that consistency in front of goal," the Atleti boss told a news conference on Monday. "They are good team-mates and friends. We keep working with Costa and everyone.

"It's normal for strikers to be worried where goals are coming from. Everyone shows the personality they have on the outside.

"As happens with strikers, [Morata] is much freer, looser as a result of his play."

Atletico can move top of the table with a win at Deportivo Alaves on Tuesday, at least until Barcelona play Real Sociedad a few hours later.

With the Clasico having been postponed last weekend, promoted Granada took the chance to go top after 10 matches by beating Real Betis 1-0.

Simeone thinks the balanced league table at this stage of the season shows how LaLiga teams have begun to improve defensively.

"The numbers from the first 10 matches speak for themselves. Nothing else needs to be said," he added.

"There are very good coaches. In Spain, there have always been good footballers for the associated way of playing and teams have acquired qualities to become better defensively. We see that in a lot of teams."

Diego Simeone called on everyone associated with Atletico Madrid to pull in the same direction after his side saw off Athletic Bilbao to return to winning ways in LaLiga.

Atletico snapped a streak of three successive league draws with Saturday's 2-0 home victory thanks to goals from Saul Niguez and Alvaro Morata.

Back-to-back wins in all competitions has helped to lift the mood around Wanda Metropolitano, with Koke being greeted warmly against Athletic just four days on from being jeered by the same supporters in the narrow 1-0 Champions League win against Bayer Leverkusen.

Following Atletico's third home match in a week, head coach Simeone paid tribute to the club's fanbase and talked up the importance of showing a united front.

"We have to be together forever," he said at his post-match news conference. "We are a new team, with many new players. Today, for example, we had a backline of new signings.  

"We know what our aim is and we need the fans, directors, players, coaches to be like horses looking forward. 

"Koke may have bad games, but he is always there, he covers well and he is important to the team. 

He added: "The fans were extraordinary again, they are the best around, as I've said before... 180,000 people in three games. 

"It's not easy to come to seven or nine games, but they are always there. We, with total humility, aim to give our best, even though it doesn't always come off."

A second win in seven LaLiga outings lifted Atletico up to second place and level on points with leaders Barcelona, who have a game in hand to play against third-place Real Madrid.

Simeone selected Angel Correa over the benched Diego Costa for the comfortable home victory and the versatile Argentine forward repaid that faith by setting up both goals.

"He has always been a striker," Simeone replied when asked about Correa's best position in the side. "We often put him in a place where he doesn't feel comfortable but he puts in a great effort.

"His natural position is a striker. In that position he can better express his dribbling, his power, his turns, like the one for the first goal. He is a player who has done very well."

Saul Niguez and Alvaro Morata were on target as Atletico Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 2-0 at Wanda Metropolitano to return to winning ways and move up to second in LaLiga.

The home side had drawn three league games in a row - and four of their last five - to lose ground in the title race, but they rediscovered their scoring touch on Saturday.

Saul opened the scoring for Diego Simeone's men with just under half an hour played and Morata grabbed a second 64 minutes in to seal the victory.

A second win in seven league matches lifted Atletico a point above third-placed Real Madrid and behind leaders Barcelona on goal difference alone, though both those sides have a game in hand to play after this week's El Clasico was postponed for safety reasons.

Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid are among a host of major clubs interested in signing Brescia midfielder Sandro Tonali, according to the club's owner and president Massimo Cellino.

Tonali, 19, is one of Italy's brightest prospects, having broken into Brescia's first-team picture at the age of 17.

A technically gifted deep-lying playmaker who is often likened to Azzurri great Andrea Pirlo, Tonali made his first appearance for Italy in the Euro 2020 qualifying win over Liechtenstein on October 15.

He played 34 league games last season as Brescia were crowned Serie B champions and earned promotion back to the top flight, with many expecting the midfielder to be snapped up by a bigger club.

Brescia have managed to hold onto him, though, with Cellino suggesting it would take an eye-watering €300million for the club to part with him.

Asked by La Gazzetta dello Sport who was interested in Tonali, Cellino said: "All the big Italian clubs. Abroad there's Atletico Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, but in my view, he'd be better off remaining a key player with Brescia.

"His agent and his parents were telling me about this €50million evaluation. I replied that for me he is worth €300million, which means I don't want to sell.

"I have a dream. If Sandro accepts, I am ready to make a big financial sacrifice to extend his contract. It's up to him to decide. He can stay here and enjoy his football or go to a big club and risk being left on the bench."

Diego Simeone came to Koke's defence after the Atletico Madrid midfielder was singled out for criticism from sections of the Wanda Metropolitano support.

Club stalwart Koke was jeered for his performance during the narrow Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen in midweek, although he later insisted he has "total confidence" in himself.

Atletico coach Simeone had some words of comfort as they prepared to face Athletic Bilbao in a third consecutive home match, suggesting even he has had to overcome boos at times.

"Of course the fans have jeered me, in the Calderon itself in some games," he told a news conference. "I remember being whistled just because I wasn't doing a good game.

"People are spontaneous, they say what they feel. They are used to a type of situation and that is what they want.

"It is us who have to strive to improve and not have that tension. It's not just Koke - it's everyone's responsibility."

Asked why Koke might now be targeted by fans, Simeone acknowledged the midfielder may need to go back to basics.

"He is occupying too many positions," the coach said. "Maybe he should focus more on his own.

"Often he wants to fix a lot with his tactical ability. He wants to do more than he is responsible for and ends up paying for what is not his responsibility.

"He wants to fix problems in other parts of the field which are not fixable. With the tactical ability he has and the information he has gathered over the years, this makes him want to do more than he has to do.

"He is a great professional and a great player."

As Simeone reflects on criticism of himself and his team, one issue for which Atleti regularly face scrutiny is a lack of threat in the final third.

Asked if this could ever complement the usual defensive stubbornness of his side, Simeone claimed "creativity" was not Atleti's problem.

"I believe that what we need is to be more practical, not to have more creativity," he said. "Creativity is not the only factor that improves you. Creativity is good and practicality is better."

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