Diego Simeone insists he did not ask Alvaro Morata to join Atletico Madrid but has refused to comment on reports linking his side with Alexandre Lacazette.
Speaking ahead of Atleti’s game against Eibar in La Liga on Saturday, Simeone also hinted midfielder Thomas Partey would start at right-back and reflected on an “extraordinary” season, despite a third trophyless campaign seemingly on the horizon.
“Juanfran? He’s feeling better, he’s recovered very well, but I’m not going to call him up,” explained the Coach.
“Did I ask Morata to come here? I did not tell him that, I was kidding.
“Peace of mind? This fantastic season we’re having is the most difficult since I’ve been at the club.
“Competing as we are, with the difficulties we have, is huge for me.
“There are still matches remaining and once the season is over, we’ll see if our numbers were very good or just good.
“Comeback in the Champions League? [On Saturday], we’re playing against Eibar.
“Psychological preparation? We’ve worked very well in the League since the start of the year and we hope to keep going like this.
“Eibar? They’ve grown enormously, I’ve always said that they’ve been working very well as a team, they’re strong and they know how to play.
“They’ve had a very consistent season, they’ve taken very important steps as a team in terms of their performance.
“Right-back? Lucas will play at centre-back in principle and we’re still debating the best option for the right-hand side: it’ll be a youngster or one of the midfielders.
“For now, this is our most important match because there are three left [in the League].
“We’re working towards a very important objective for the club: to finish third, which is what I’m thinking of today.
“We need to win and keep picking up points that bring us closer to the objective that the club need.
“Things wouldn’t change much if we drop points in the games we need to win.
“Lacazette? With all due respect for him, we’re only looking at the game against Eibar.
“The team’s morale? We’ll see [on Saturday], the team have always given important answers to hard knocks.
“I imagine the same thing [on Saturday]. I also expect a Calderon closer than ever because this season has been extraordinary: Copa semi-finals, the nine points on Sevilla that we recovered, a Champions League semi-final, with the possibility of turning it around, and third in the League, which helps the club grow.
“If I was a fan, I’d go to the Calderon with maximum energy.
“We’re neither Real Madrid nor Barcelona nor Bayern Munich, all of whom are the best teams in the world.
“We have been in continuous growth for eight years, the best in the club’s history, which have been extraordinary, but it’s not enough time to match the level of the [above] monsters.
“Still, the only way to do that is to keep working as we are.”
Atletico Madrid (probable): Oblak; Thomas, Godin, Lucas, Filipe; Gaitan, Saul, Gabi, Koke; Griezmann, Correa
Injuries/suspensions: Augusto, Gimenez, Juanfran, Vrsaljko (I) Savic (S)
Eibar (probable): Yoel; Arbilla, Ramis, Lejeune, Junca; Pedro Leon, Dani Garcia, Escalante, Inui; Enrich, Kike
Injuries/suspensions: Luna, Capa, Fran Rico, Nano
Referee: Fernandez Borbalan
Form guide: Atleti (W L W W D) Eibar (W D L L W)
Previous meeting: Eibar 2-2 Atleti
Kick-off time: 15:15 BST/16:15 local time