Atletico Madrid strikers finding form can help us catch Barcelona - Simeone
Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone says he feels his team's attackers are now starting to hit form ahead of Saturday evening's La Liga trip to Levante.
Atletico have had a tough start to the new season following a summer where they were banned by FIFA from bringing in new players, while also managing a move to their new Wanda Metropolitano stadium.
Striker Antoine Griezmann has struggled for form so far, however the Frenchman scored one and set up the other for Kevin Gameiro in Wednesday's 2-0 Champions League group victory at home to Roma, a result and performance which boosted the Rojiblanco faithful although it is still very unlikely their team will make the round of 16.
With his side still unbeaten in La Liga, but sitting in fourth spot having scored only 16 goals in their first 12 games, Simeone told his prematch news conference that in football finding the net was really the only thing that counted.
"Goals help everything," Simeone said. "If the other day we had not scored everything else would not have mattered. When you win everything seems better. In football the only thing that counts is the goal, and we will try and improve in this area.
"[Angel] Correa made a big difference [against Roma], Gameiro was committed, Griezmann played a great game and [Yannick] Carrasco was also better than in recent games.
Even with his team 10 points behind leaders Barcelona, the Argentine said he felt they were still in the title race.
"La Liga is very long, and this is just week 13," Simeone said. "Last year Sevilla were nine points ahead of us and we caught them [for third place]. Football changes a lot. Barca lose less games than most teams. But we always think as we have. Game by game, and we will keep going like that."
Simeone said that he was not surprised that his team had not been at their peak after the difficulties they had faced, but he was confident that better times were ahead.
"I renewed my contract as I believe in this team, in these players and this club," Simeone said. "I believe things will get better. I knew in advance what would happen during these six months."
Atletico are undefeated in their last 18 away La Liga matches, however they have not won at the Ciutat de Valencia in over a decade, losing three and drawing two of their five visits with Simeone on the bench.
"They are a difficult team for Atletico, and we will go into tomorrow's game thinking of that," Simeone said. "I hope all the positive energy we have from our games against Madrid and Roma will be seen in a game where for sure we will have difficulties.
Both Sime Vrsaljko (back) and Juanfran (hamstring) are currently sidelined, so the versatile Jose Maria Gimenez is likely to play at right-back.
Levante sit 10th in the table, with their only win in their last seven La Liga games coming in a 2-0 victory at bottom side Las Palmas last weekend.
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