Koke says Atletico Madrid's improved defensive showings are now being reflected by their results after the captain scored in a 1-0 win over Rayo Vallecano.

After Atletico had managed just a single attempt on target despite bossing the first half, Koke bent a delicate strike into the bottom-right corner after a neat one-two with Joao Felix, handing Los Colchoneros a fifth consecutive win in LaLiga.

Koke's first strike of the campaign also saw him join a select group, becoming just the fifth man to score in each of the last 12 seasons in LaLiga, after Karim Benzema, Raul Garcia, Iker Muniain, and team-mate Antoine Griezmann.

The victory, which Atletico claimed despite Angel Correa's late red card, put last season's champions third in LaLiga, three points clear of Barcelona and five clear of Real Betis in the top-four race.

After downing Vallecano with his first goal since January 2021, Koke hailed the team's concentration levels and emphasised the importance of keeping a clean sheet.

"We have found the key," the 30-year-old told LaLiga TV. "We have all increased the intensity, the concentration. That is why we are in this dynamic. 

"We are playing very good games and that is reflected in the results. We have found the key both offensively and defensively. 

"We have conceded a lot of goals [prior to this run] and [now] we are managing to keep a clean sheet, which is important for us and has given us victories."

The shutout win saw Atletico boss Diego Simeone become just the fourth coach to oversee 200 clean sheets in LaLiga. After reaching that landmark in just 393 games, the Argentine has done so quicker than any of the previous three, namely Luis Aragones, Miguel Munoz, and Javier Irureta.

"Jan is always the best in the world," Koke added. "He proves it in every match. To score a goal [against Oblak], you have to score a great goal or get lucky. 

"For us it is good news that we did not concede a goal and Jan is very important."

Atletico have now conceded just twice in their last five league games, having shipped 10 goals in their previous five matches in LaLiga.

Simeone, meanwhile, highlighted the team's recent growth, and emphasised the contribution of Koke after his match-winning intervention. 

"The team has grown as a whole, and the individuals are having a very good level," Simeone said. "Lodi, Reinildo, Llorente, the return of Koke has given us a lot, De Paul 's [had] two very good games…

"The team is very strong when they work like this. It is repetitive to talk about Koke, they [the players] know what I think of him. He goes through bad times, but he accepts them. Some criticise him more than others, but he always gives us a lot."

Koke's fine second-half strike earned Atletico Madrid a 1-0 derby victory over Rayo Vallecano on Saturday, though Diego Simeone's team finished with 10 men.

Antoine Griezmann and Joao Felix missed the best openings of a cagey first half, before visiting captain Koke finished neatly into the bottom-right corner in the 49th minute.

Jan Oblak made a fine left-handed save to preserve the lead, and Atleti held on despite Angel Correa's late red card, earning a fifth successive league win and boosting their hopes of a top-four finish. 

Griezmann's early volley forced Stole Dimitrievski into a reaction stop at his near post, before Joao Felix poked agonisingly wide after meeting Rodrigo de Paul's free-kick at the back post.

Joao Felix then sent a disappointing header over the bar from a right-wing corner on 34 minutes, but the fleet-of-foot Portugal international was Atleti's brightest attacker in a competitive first half.

Stefan Savic headed over from another set-piece at the end of a first half in which chances came at a premium, with both sides each registering just one shot on target each before the break.

Atleti went up a gear at the start of the second half, however, with Koke exchanging a neat give-and-go with Joao Felix before bending the ball into the bottom-right corner.

Mario Suarez drew a stunning save from Oblak on the hour and substitute Correa put his team in a difficult spot when he saw red on 85 minutes for shoving Alejandro Catena, but the visitors clung on.

Atletico Madrid confirmed Antoine Griezmann has been granted permission from health authorities to return to training.

Griezmann was among five to test positive for COVID-19 on December 30 along with coach Diego Simeone, Koke, Hector Herrera and Joao Felix.

All of them went into immediate isolation, with only Simeone being able to leave quarantine in time for Sunday's 2-0 LaLiga win over Rayo Vallecano.

But Griezmann has been cleared to return to the training pitch as well after his latest test came back negative, making his a case of "resolved infection".

An Atletico statement read: "Antoine Griezmann has received clearance from LaLiga to return to training.

"The French player represents a case of resolved infection that meets the conditions set by the Strategy for Early Detection, Surveillance and Control of COVID-19 of the Ministry of Health, dated December 19, 2021."

As such, Griezmann could potentially feature against Rayo Majadahonda in the Copa del Rey on Thursday.

Otherwise, he will hope to be involved away to Villarreal on Sunday.

Diego Simeone and Antoine Griezmann are among five new positive cases of coronavirus at Atletico Madrid.

Midfielders Koke and Hector Herrera and Portugal star Joao Felix also returned positive results in the club's latest round of testing.

The Spanish champions said all five are asymptomatic and isolating at home.

COVID-19 infections have been recorded at several LaLiga clubs in recent days, with Barcelona having had 10 positive tests this week alone.

On Wednesday, Real Madrid confirmed Thibaut Courtois, Eduardo Camavinga, Federico Valverde and Vinicius Junior had all tested positive for the virus, while Sevilla recorded five positives during the short mid-season break in Spain.

Valencia face Espanyol on Friday before most sides return to action on Sunday, with Atletico taking on high-flying neighbours Rayo Vallecano at the Wanda Metropolitano.

December 23 marks the 10th anniversary of Diego Simeone's appointment as the head coach of Atletico Madrid.

The Argentine's return to his old club altered the modern history of LaLiga, as Atleti firmly established a 'big three' in Spain alongside Real Madrid and Barcelona while making waves in Europe.

While their style of play has not always courted admirers, Simeone's Atletico have won eight trophies – including two LaLiga titles and two Europa Leagues – and twice reached the Champions League final, all on a budget that has never matched that of their two biggest rivals.

In his decade in the capital, Simeone has also worked through a sizeable turnover of players, some of whom have established themselves as modern greats at the club.

Here, Stats Perform attempts to select a best XI from Cholo's time in charge...

Jan Oblak

Replacing Thibaut Courtois was no easy task, but signing Jan Oblak for €16million has proven to be an outstanding piece of business.

An invaluable part of Atletico's imperious rearguard, Oblak set a record for the fewest matches needed to record 100 clean sheets in LaLiga last July (182), helping his side to the league title – one of four trophies in his time at the club.

Oblak has won the Zamora Trophy – given to the keeper with the best goals-against-per-game ratio – in four of the past five seasons.

Juanfran

He might have developed at Real Madrid, but Juanfran became one of Atleti's most dependable and beloved players under Simeone.

A winger as a younger player, Juanfran was a strong attacking outlet as well as being reliable in defence at a time when Atleti's biggest rivals boasted Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at their peak. It was cruel that he should miss a penalty in the Champions League final shoot-out defeat to Madrid in 2016.

Although he won seven trophies before leaving for Sao Paulo in 2019, Juanfran told supporters at his farewell reception: "You singing my name was better than winning titles."

Diego Godin

Signed the year before Simeone's arrival, Godin became the rock on which Atleti's redoubtable defence was built, playing 389 games before departing at the end of 2018-19 – a record for a foreign player at the club.

A winner of eight trophies under Simeone, the Uruguay centre-back was twice included on the Ballon d'Or shortlist as he formed a formidable partnership with Miranda and later compatriot Jose Gimenez. There are some who consider Godin, who became captain, to be the greatest defender ever to play for the club.

There are suggestions he could return to the Wanda Metropolitano should he leave Cagliari in the coming weeks.

Jose Gimenez

Gimenez had to wait for his chance, linking up with Atletico for the title-winning 2013-14 season as an 18-year-old and finding Miranda blocking his path. However, the veteran soon moved on to Inter and was scarcely missed.

Gimenez, who remains at Atleti and is still only 26, had the benefit of playing alongside Godin at international level, quickly forging a strong partnership after his 2013 Uruguay debut. At international level, he may well be the man to pass his colleague's record caps haul.

Simeone's latest stalwart has already continued his fine performances at club level beyond Godin's career, named as one of four captains immediately after the older man's departure. Only hamstring injuries have slowed Gimenez to this point, but he has plenty of time left to add to his legacy.

Filipe Luis

Atletico's outstanding 2013-14 season attracted the attention of some of Europe's biggest clubs – or at least one of them. Chelsea recalled Courtois and returned to sign two more title-winning stars: Filipe Luis and Diego Costa.

Both men eventually returned to Simeone's ranks, but Filipe Luis' Premier League move was particularly underwhelming. Jose Mourinho's Stamford Bridge rebuild found room for one of Europe's outstanding full-backs only as a back-up, with the Brazil international restricted to 939 league minutes – merely the 16th-most in that triumphant Chelsea side.

Atleti were only too happy to welcome Filipe Luis back the following year, installing him again as a regular in Simeone's sturdy defence.

Koke

Koke made his Atletico debut more than two years prior to Simeone's appointment and is still at the club as captain, aged only 29. He may even break Adelardo Rodriguez's club appearance record of 551 before the end of the season, now 30 short.

Under Simeone alone, Koke has turned out on 486 occasions, by far the most of any Atleti player, as he has had a big hand in the coach's various successes.

The midfielder emerged too late to contribute to Spain's international titles between 2008 and 2012 but was instead identified as Xavi's successor by the man himself. "An extraordinary footballer," according to a man who knows a thing or two about such players, Koke has consistently delivered at club level.

Gabi

A Marca column this year identified two potential successors to Simeone, two former players who are "pure Atletico Madrid". Fernando Torres is one; Gabi is the other.

Madrid-born Gabi epitomised Simeone's side with his dogged approach, having been selected as captain by the coach he played alongside in his first spell at the club.

"We weren't the best technically, but we were the best in terms of our belief," Gabi reflected of an Atleti stint that included six major honours – a description that fits both iconic player and team.

Marcos Llorente

Probably the most surprising choice in this XI, Llorente has undoubtedly proven himself an invaluable asset to Simeone since his move across the city in 2019.

Nominally a holding midfielder, the Spain international has been deployed to great effect in a more attacking role, not least in scoring twice at Anfield to knock Liverpool out of the 2019-20 Champions League.

Llorente has also filled in at full-back, that versatility earning him a starting spot on the right-hand side of Luis Enrique's line-up at Euro 2020. There are few players more accomplished at adopting different roles in Simeone's demanding set-up.

Antoine Griezmann

His 'Decision' about staying at Atletico in 2018 – and then promptly signing for Barcelona anyway a year later – upset plenty of Atletico fans, but there is little doubt about Griezmann's contribution to Simeone's success.

Griezmann has scored 140 goals and provided 148 assists for Atletico; since Simeone took charge, the next highest on the list for direct goal involvements is Koke on 137. And Griezmann was not even an Atletico player for the first two and a half years of the Cholo era.

The France international has twice come third in the Ballon d'Or standings while playing for Atleti, in 2016 and then 2018. Had it not been for a costly penalty miss in the Champions League final five years ago, he could well have got his hands on the prize.

Diego Costa

Fiery and formidable, Costa was the archetypal Simeone striker, and a player at the heart of one of the club's greatest modern seasons.

Initially a back-up to Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan, and having battled a knee injury in 2011, Costa became an established player in the side in 2012-13, scoring in the Copa del Rey final win over Real Madrid.

Then, in 2013-14, he scored 27 LaLiga goals as Atleti claimed an incredible title triumph, and a further eight in nine games to propel them to the Champions League final. Simeone's attempt to rush him back from a hamstring injury for that game backfired, though: he lasted eight minutes of the match, which Atleti lost 4-1 after extra time.

Radamel Falcao

Described by Marca in 2012 as "the best signing of the 21st century", Radamel Falcao enjoyed two explosive seasons in Madrid as he cemented his reputation as the world's most feared number nine.

A club-record €40m signing in August 2011, the Colombia striker scored 36 goals in his debut season, including 12 in Atleti's victorious Europa League run – a competition he won the season before with Porto.

He started 2012-13 with consecutive hat-tricks, including against Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup, ending the season with 34 goals in all competitions. He also set up Diego Costa to score as Atleti beat Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final.

Diego Simeone said he knew Atletico Madrid had to win after the LaLiga leaders moved a step closer to the title after defeating Real Sociedad.

After Barcelona dropped points, Atletico could be within one victory of claiming their second league crown of Simeone's tenure following Wednesday's 2-1 win over Sociedad.

Yannick Carrasco and Angel Correa struck in the space of 12 first-half minutes to give Atletico a 2-0 lead inside half an hour in the Spanish capital midweek.

Carrasco has been involved in 14 LaLiga goals this season (six goals and eight assists), equalling his record in a same campaign in the competition (14 in 2016-17 – 10 goals, four assists).

La Real set up a grandstand finish through Igor Zubeldia but Atletico held on to move four points clear atop the table with two rounds remaining, though city rivals Real Madrid could move back within two by beating Granada on Thursday.

"We knew that we had to win," Atletico head coach Simeone told reporters. "We were ahead in the game against a team that were doing things well, especially away from home.

"The first half was pretty good, we took a 2-0 lead, we had enough chances to have a bigger advantage. Up until the 25th minute of the second half the game was open and at the end of the season winning is very important and then their goal happened as did those last few minutes.

"We were left with the feeling that we suffered in those last few minutes because of Sociedad's desire to try and get a draw."

This is the third time in history Atleti have reached 80 or more points after 36 games played in LaLiga (assuming three points per victory) after 2013-14 (88) and 2015-16 (85).

Atletico are unbeaten in their last 19 matches played on a Wednesday in LaLiga (W15 D4) since a defeat to Madrid in April 2012 (1-4).

"We need to rest. Clearly we're all in a season that has been very tough and that will end up being very tough indeed because of everything that has happened to us as a society," added Simeone. "We started too fast and you all know that and all teams have had to fight against that. We're no exception.

"We have two games ahead and we'll face them in the same way we have the others, game after game, knowing that on Sunday it will be a very important match for us, knowing it will be a very important game for what's to come in LaLiga."

Koke made his 500th appearance for Atleti in all competitions, becoming the second player to reach this figure in the history of the club after Adelardo Rodriguez (550).

"We have two games left, that's a whole world," Koke said. "The league is really tight these last five games, we've always said it. Everyone is dropping points, these games are finals for us, we won this one and on Sunday and we have another final we want to win.

"We're Atleti, if we weren't suffering, it wouldn't be us. Thanks to the fans who came here outside [the stadium] and those who can't. You need your fans to make that extra effort as we did in the last 10 minutes, we could hear them outside. We're grateful."

The Atletico Madrid players have released a statement to "convey our satisfaction" after the club withdrew from the European Super League.

Atletico were among 12 clubs who announced plans for the controversial new competition on Sunday.

But the tournament – a rival to the Champions League but with guaranteed participation for its founding members – quickly came under scrutiny.

Anger from fans, players, coaches, governing bodies, governments and the media soon prompted England's 'big six' to back out. Atleti followed, along with Inter and Milan.

Koke, the Atleti captain, posted on his Twitter page on Wednesday: "From the Atletico Madrid squad, we want to convey our satisfaction about the final decision to renounce the Super League project made by our club.

"We will continue fighting to help Atleti grow from our position through the values of effort and sporting merit that have always characterised us, so that all of you continue to see yourself reflected in those signs of identity.

"We continue to work hard, focused on the game tomorrow."

Speaking before Thursday's LaLiga clash with Huesca, Atleti coach Diego Simeone had earlier backed the club both in their decision to pursue the Super League and then to step back.

"I understood that the club was going to decide what was best for the club," he said. "The club has looked at our fans, employees, players, president – the Atletico family."

Simeone added: "We understand that this situation [the withdrawal] is good for everyone. We all belong to football – before being footballers and coaches, we are fans."

Diego Simeone said Atletico Madrid do not feel nervous after the LaLiga leaders slipped up, though he did question his team's intensity.

Atletico suffered a costly 1-0 loss to Sevilla on Sunday, which saw their lead atop the table cut to three points, though Barcelona could close to within a solitary point if they beat Real Valladolid on Monday.

Despite Jan Oblak's penalty heroics, Atletico lost to fourth-placed Sevilla in LaLiga for the first time since 2016 following Marcos Acuna's 70th-minute header.

Atletico have won just four of nine games, having threatened to run away with the LaLiga trophy earlier in the season but pressure is mounting on Simeone's side as defending champions Real Madrid and Barca close in.

"We have to keep working hard and taking a look at what we have to improve," Simeone told reporters. "We have to slightly question our intensity and we need to make sure we get back the intensity that won us so many games and prove the squad's talent and ability.

"We have a week ahead of us now that some players, because of bookings, will not be able to play. We'll try and prepare as well as we can, and we'll keep going game by game. That won't change my mentality at all.

"We can't accept what happened today but we also have to accept that we have to improve, and there are very negative stats at the moment."

Atletico have lost two out of their past seven games in LaLiga (W3 D2), as many as their previous 40 games in all competitions (W26 D12).

Simeone, though, shouldered the blame for Atletico's defeat away to Julen Lopetegui's Sevilla.

"If I make the change at 30 minutes in, that's because myself as the manager, I made the mistake in the analysis of the game, and we wanted to try and do something else, and we tried to make as many changes as we could to make sure we push forward," said Simeone.

"I think the team improved in the second half, we were much more competitive, and we improved a bit more closely as to what we can do. We knew it was a very level game, especially in the second half. We had the chance from Mario Hermoso as well as Angel Correa's chance which was very clear as well.

"We are a side that needs to win games like this and we knew that probably, it was my mistake because I made the wrong decisions before the game so that the team felt comfortable. In the second half we just weren't close enough to what we normally play."

Atletico captain Koke was critical of the referee for not reviewing Acuna's goal amid claims Lucas Ocampos handled the ball at the start of the goalscoring move.

"It was a clear handball for the goal and there was another handball [by Diego Carlos] which should have been a second yellow card," he said.

"We have VAR which has to be there to help out. Today wasn't our day. On other days it has favoured us, today it didn't go our way.

"This is a tough defeat but we tried everything. We struggled in the first half but in the second we had chances."

Atletico director Tomas Renones added: The handball is clear [by Ocampos] and referee should have seen it. It has hurt us, but Atletico are not going to complain, just keep working to stay top of La Liga."

Diego Simeone praised the development of Marcos Llorente after the midfielder helped Atletico Madrid secure a 2-1 victory over Granada. 

Atleti extended their lead at the top of LaLiga to eight points thanks to Angel Correa's deflected winner on Saturday. 

Llorente provided the assist for Correa having opened the scoring himself with a neat finish in the 63rd minute, taking his tally of league goals for the season to seven. 

The 26-year-old – signed primarily to play as a defensive midfielder in 2019 from rivals Real Madrid – scored his first goal for Atleti in a 2-2 draw with Valencia on February 14 last year. 

He has now netted 13 times in all competitions in total for the club, while his tally of 10 league goals since getting off the mark puts him behind only Luis Suarez (16) for Simeone's squad. 

Llorente has averaged a goal every 237 minutes in LaLiga over the last 12 months, as well as providing 10 assists and creating 35 chances. Only Koke, who moved level with Tomas Renones for second place on the list for appearances in all competitions for Atletico, has created more (41).

With his opener against Granada, Llorente became the midfielder in LaLiga with the most direct goal involvements so far this season, so it was hardly surprising when Simeone spoke glowingly of the Spain international's desire to transform himself into an all-round attacking threat. 

"As coaches, titles are wonderful, because they fill you with excitement and glory," Simeone told a news conference. 

"But when you work with a footballer and see his growth reflected, you feel more joy and more enthusiasm to continue advancing in this profession.  

"When we see a footballer with the ability to do different things than what he had been doing in his career, we jump into it. It happened to us with Griezmann, with Saul, with Juanfran. 

"Why is it happening? I would like to look for the images of Marcos training when he was not even playing, when in practice he scored a lot of goals, we joked that he was going to have to play higher [up the pitch]. 

"We put him up front and now I think in the middle is where feels more at ease." 

While Llorente delivered the goods on Saturday, LaLiga's leading scorer Suarez had an off day in front of goal, landing only one of his four attempts on target, though he was unfortunate to hit the crossbar in the second half. 

"We always ask all the boys who have played as strikers in our team for collaboration and effort for the team," Simeone said. 

"Luis, beyond what he generates with his goals, has a lot of intelligence. He knows where to apply pressure, where to bother the rival, generate doubts and we need everyone."

Luis Suarez scored a set-piece double as Atletico Madrid saw off Cadiz 4-2 to move 10 points clear at the LaLiga summit.

Real Madrid's shock 2-1 loss to Levante on Saturday provided Atleti with a chance to extend their lead at the top and they did exactly that with victory at Estadio Ramon de Carranza.

Diego Simeone's men had trailed in their last two outings, though Suarez opened the scoring with a sublime free-kick in Sunday's clash before Alvaro Negredo equalised.

Saul Niguez's flicked finish and Suarez's penalty gave Atleti some breathing space and, while Negredo's second of the day did make things interesting, Koke finished smartly late on to make certain of an eighth league win in a row.

Anthony Lozano glanced wide from a promising Cadiz opportunity and, less than three minutes later, Suarez sent a 28-yard free-kick up and over the wall and into the left corner to give Atleti the lead.

Cadiz were level almost instantly thanks to Negredo, who curled a fine finish beyond Jan Oblak after the ball had ricocheted into his path off Thomas Lemar.

The visitors had won only one of their last eight league games prior to Sunday and it did not take Saul long to restore Atleti's lead with a rather fortunate goal.

Lemar sent in a cross from the right and Saul stuck out a leg, seemingly in an attempt to help the ball on, but instead succeeding in sending it looping over Jeremias Ledesma.

Atleti survived another scare before half-time when a penalty initially awarded for handball against Koke was overturned by VAR due to the midfielder's arm being on the ground when contact was made.

That proved a big moment as Simeone's side converted a penalty of their own through Suarez five minutes into the second half after Marcos Mauro brought down Lemar.

Suarez blazed over when on for a hat-trick and that nearly proved costly as Atletico failed to deal with a ball into the box and Negredo scrambled past Oblak to give Cadiz hope.

Oblak then had to be alert to keep out Negredo's header, but the next goal went Atletico's way, substitute Angel Correa exchanging passes with Marcos Llorente and squaring for Koke to round off the scoring.

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