Simeone out to end Atletico derby woe
Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone believes Saturday's city derby presents a real opportunity for his side to claim a first win in 14 years over local rivals Real Madrid.
Atletico have not beaten their northern city neighbours since 1999, but sense their moment might at last come given Madrid may be more focused this week on next Tuesday's Champions League semi-final at home to Borussia Dortmund, with Jose Mourinho's men needing overturn a 4-1 first leg deficit.
Simeone, who was talking before that game in Dortmund, said all bad runs come to an end, and his players were excited about the chance of at least gaining a first derby win of the 21st century.
"That is history," Simeone said. "And history has to change at some moment. We must win, but we do not listen to what is being said outside. On our side there is enthusiasm, excitement and expectation. This is an opportunity. Words count for little. The only thing that counts is the facts, and the facts meaning winning the game."
Atletico have spent much of the season in second place in the Primera Division table, but a recent dip in form sees them go into the game three points behind Mourinho's side, with six games remaining. Simeone said seeing his team improve, not finishing the season above Madrid, was his objective.
"The league does not end on Saturday," he said. "There are still many games to play. The idea is to keep improving. Last season we were fifth, and we have improved. We are working intensely. I would like to finish above everyone. If you want me to be a demagogue, I would say I would be delighted to finish above Madrid [but] I do not have just one opponent, I have 19."
Asked how Saturday's result would affect his players' preparation for May 17's Copa del Rey final between the two teams at the Bernabeu, El Cholo said he did not know.
"It is very difficult to be sure," he said. "This is a league game and the other a final. You cannot say if it will have any bearing on the second game."
Atletico playmaker Arda Turan remains unlikely to return from injury in time for Saturday's game, but Diego Costa is available to renew his oft-heated relationship with Madrid's Sergio Ramos and Pepe, after the bustling forward had a ban lifted on appeal on Wednesday.
Simeone, himself no stranger to the physical side of the game during his playing career, said Costa could mature without losing his combative edge.
"Obviously it is a plus to have him back," Simeone said. "Diego has characteristics that he is going to improve. We cannot take away how he is. He will grow as all players do, and learn from things which happen in life and in football."