Simeone on Atletico's chances to reach last 16: 'I always remain confident'
Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone said he remains confident of making the Champions League last 16 after Wednesday's 2-0 win over Roma kept alive their slight chances of progress in the competition.
A required win looked beyond Atletico until Antoine Griezmann's acrobatic volley with 20 minutes remaining lifted everyone at the Wanda Metropolitano, and the Frenchman then set-up his fellow countryman Gameiro to make the result safe.
The 2014 and 2016 UCL finalists now go to Stamford Bridge on Dec. 5 needing to win and hope Qarabag can frustrate Roma as they already have done twice to Atletico, or else they will be playing Europa League football in the new year.
The rojiblanco coach told the postgame news conference that his side had been involved in plenty of tight games which could have gone either way lately, and he would not rule out Qarabag pulling off another shock in Rome.
"I always remain confident, I know my players, they are proud guys and will give their all while there is still a chance," Simeone said. "We had to win today, and we did. We have to win again [at Chelsea] and then see what happens with Roma. Football is marvellous. We could have won in Roma, we should have beaten Qarabag here.
"We ourselves won 1-0 at Celta Vigo and Deportivo La Coruna when we might have drawn. We do not underestimate anyone. Sometimes the ball wants to go in, sometimes it does not."
Asked for his reaction to Griezmann's goal after so much recent talk about his future, Simeone smiled and acted out his sigh of relief on the bench, while limiting his praise of a forward who had not scored in his last eight club games.
"Antoine is a standout player, who today again played a great game," the Argentine said. "It was a golazo, reflective of the quality he has, and opened the game for us. Hopefully he scores many more like that."
Simeone preferred to say the impetus for the result had come from rojiblanco fans who got to cheer a first big win at their new Wanda Metropolitano home, following letdowns in previous games against Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid.
"We began to win the match before the game, when the fans were applauding Griezmann and all the players who have been six years competing with a lot of pride to win important things," the former Atletico midfielder said. "That is how our stadium should be, and the players reacted with heart, giving everything until the end. We had the responsibility to win today, and we did."
Despite Simeone's optimistic words, Roma remain big favourites to reach the last 16, and giallorossi coach Eusebio Di Francesco told reporters afterwards that while disappointed with the result, he was still happy with his team's situation in the group.
"Our objective was to try and qualify tonight," Di Francesco said. "We wanted to go for the game, but lacked the final pass, and did not convert chances we created when we were on top in the first half. We were not attentive enough with how we managed the ball in the second half. They had a bit more hunger to win this game. This defeat annoys us, but at the start everyone would have taken this position."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan