Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone says clubs that complain about refereeing errors can lose focus on more important things like playing games, while making an apparent dig at Real Madrid’s insistence on talking about Cristiano Ronaldo’s recent red card and three-game ban.
Madrid’s players and club officials were strongly critical of referee Miguel Angel Ayza Gamez after he sent off Ronaldo during the 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao on Feb. 2, with local media helping whip up a storm that has led to Ayza Gomez being removed from action -- and the public eye -- for four weeks. Real are still reportedly considering appealing to the Spanish government’s Sports Council to try to get the remaining two games of Ronaldo’s punishment overturned.
Atletico have also suffered from some unfortunate decisions lately, particularly when losing 2-0 at Almeria on Saturday, but the Argentine coach has consistently refused to rise to the bait regularly thrown to him by reporters after games. He told his news conference ahead of Tuesday’s Copa del Rey semifinal second leg against Madrid that focusing on such external controversies did not help the team to win on the pitch.
"I do not believe in excuses from outside," Simeone said. "Focusing on these things just wastes effort, it does not help the team win games. Things happen and will happen again. Look at the game in Bilbao, and who is taken out for a month for writing the referee’s report wrong. We must focus on improving ourselves. I do not criticise refs for making mistakes against us. I focus on my own work. These incidents are for you [the media]."
Atletico go into Tuesday’s game 3-0 down from last week’s first leg at Madrid’s Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, where Simeone’s side were both out-thought and out-fought on the night, with targeting of Diego Costa by Madrid defenders including Alvaro Arbeloa highlighted by TV replays but unseen by the officials.
Arda Turan told Atletico’s club site that this scoreline had been harsh on his side, and he was still hopeful of overturning it in the return game.
"The result at the Bernabeu was harder than we deserved," the Turkish playmaker said. "But we are Atletico and we never throw in the towel. We will give our all in the return."
Costa’s suspension, injuries to key players including Thibaut Courtois, David Villa, Filipe Luis and Tiago Mendes, and general wear-and-tear mean Simeone is however likely to put out a below-strength side for the game.
The XI tried by the Colchoneros coach at his last training session before the game contained just three of his first-choice side, with reserves including keeper Dani Aranzubia, defenders Javi Manquillo, Toby Alderweireld and Emiliano Insua and midfielders Jose Sosa and Cebolla Rodriguez all tipped to feature.