Diego Simeone: Atletico Madrid can improve despite being topping table
Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone insists he is not yet focused on a title race despite seeing his side go top of the Primera Division for the first time since being crowned champions on May 17, 2014.
Substitute Thomas Partey's 80th-minute strike gave the Rojiblancos a hard-fought 1-0 victory over struggling Levante as they capitalised on Barcelona's goalless draw at Espanyol to go two points above the reigning champions, who have one game in hand.
But the ever-cautious Simeone said for now he was just concentrating on improving the team's all-around performances, after they had to leave it late for the fourth time in eight league games to grab the three points.
"With one week to go until the halfway point of the season we won't lose sight of our first and main objective, which is to always fight to play better, to be more incisive, to choose better ways to finish moves, to score more goals," Simeone said in a conference.
"In the first half we struggled a lot to combine with each other, and our game was based more on impulse than play. But since Thomas came on we had more fluidity. This was a vital game and a difficult one but we're delighted to be up there fighting for the right to be top."
And the coach admitted new Argentinian signings Augusto Fernandez and Matias Kranevitter will help his side's cause at a crucial time in the season.
He said: "We're in a positive situation. I appreciate that I don't have to play anyone every week and I decide according to how the players get on in training and especially matches. If they make good decisions then they will play more minutes. But the squad has been competitive since the pre-season and the best way for us to improve is by competing."
Simeone also denied that he took Koke off in the second half because he was injured, insisting the player was not carrying on a knock.
Match-winner Thomas, meanwhile, acknowledged he still has plenty of room for improvement if he wants to become an Atletico regular.
"I still need to learn things, I'm learning every day and if I keep working hard I'll get minutes," he told Movistar.
"I think everyone in the team is ready to play, we are in great form and we can all chip in to help the team. We're delighted with the win."