Diego Simeone says his team are now fully focused on Tuesday’s Copa del Rey last-16 second leg against Valencia at the Estadio Vicente Calderon.
Atletico’s goalless draw at home to Barcelona on Saturday saw them remain La Liga joint-leaders, while they also have upcoming Champions League last 16 games against AC Milan on the horizon.
Asked at Monday’s pregame news conference whether Atletico might let the Copa slide considering their commitments elsewhere, the Colchoneros boss insisted that would not be the case.
“Since I was a kid, I have always wanted to win -- even in table football,” Simeone said. “The Copa is a competition that has brought us a lot of happiness. We respect all games, even friendlies in Peru or Argentina. We are like that, we have this desire. We only play to win.”
The Atletico XI has been tweaked through recent games, including last week’s 1-1 first leg draw in Valencia, and -- although some changes are expected again for the return -- Simeone said his side was used to such tough schedules.
“The players are used to playing every four days. It often happened to us last season with the Europa League,” he said. “Tomorrow I expect we will be able to respond as we have been doing -- and win the game. Tiredness exists in football. You must overcome it. The players are working the best way possible. I have some doubts about our formation, but we will go out to play with the same idea as always.”
AS' report from training on Monday morning suggested that Simeone had tested out a changed formation with just Diego Costa alone up front. That could mean Atletico’s new midfield signing Jose Sosa making his debut in place of Koke in midfield, with midfielder Raul Garcia coming replacing the currently out of sorts forward David Villa.
Simeone said he expected Valencia -- who suffered a first defeat under new coach Juan Antonio Pizzi when going down 2-1 at Celta Vigo on Saturday -- to take the same positive approach as they did in last week’s first leg at Mestalla.
“They need to score,” he said. “I imagine that that they will try and play the same as they did in Valencia. Their last 10 minutes in the first game were very good. They are improving. Valencia has a very rich squad. It will be a difficult game.”