Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone insisted his decision to substitute Gabi against Rayo Vallecano was not linked to accusations of communication between the pair.
Gabi was replaced by Koke for the second half as Antoine Griezmann’s long-range effort fired a second-string Atleti to a 1-0 victory over Rayo on Saturday to keep them level on points with Barcelona at the summit of La Liga with only two games remaining.
However, Simeone – who sat in the stands at Valecas for the first of three matches due to a touchline ban for ordering a ballboy to throw a ball onto the pitch against Malaga last week – has since been accused of speaking to his captain via an earpiece.
“We bet on fresher faces, and the match was as I imagined,” the Coach said after the game.
“We claimed an important victory, where the points counted more than any other point in the season.
“We struggled because we didn’t have a good transition game, not because many players who don’t usually start played.
“We struggled because we didn’t play with the necessary intensity, although we had some chances through [Angel] Correa, [Luciano] Vietto…
“[On Oliver Torres and Vietto being booed], they’re with us and we need them.
“With Vietto, the responsibility’s mine as he’s had no continuity [in the team].
“The form of Griezmann, [Fernando] Torres and [Angel] Correa at present means I haven’t been able to give him more minutes.
“It wasn’t a good match for Vietto according to the fans, but it’s my responsibility to give him continuity.
“Rayo have their own needs and did well. They controlled the game and had chances in the vicinity of our box.
“At this stage of the season, where you play games consecutively and it’s not easy to keep up your concentration levels, this is a very important win and it makes us very happy.
“[Gabi] didn’t leave the pitch for any special reason. It was because Koke came on.”