Atletico Madrid will take on arch rivals Real Madrid on Saturday evening (18:30 CEST), hoping to take points at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Los Colchoneros have improved of late, winning three of their last four and reducing the gap to Real Sociedad in third to just two points. Atleti are beginning to look more solid too.
Ahead of the match, Diego Simeone was asked by Ladislao Monino of El Pais why Atleti had done so and whether it was down to Mario Hermoso. Monino clearly had not been attending the press conferences of late, as Simeone responded with a grin.
“Above all because we have missed you. I don’t know if it’s because we were not doing well in the table or what, but we missed you.”
Simeone then highlighted one major difference – their captain.
“The team is better because the team plays more and we have returned with Koke in the middle. We move through the game better, we suffer a little more defensively, but we are working. Mario’s growth is what the team needs and he has more minutes. It is what the team needs and not what Simeone needs. I have no commitment to anyone.”
Koke missed several weeks with injury ahead of the World Cup, but has returned to fitness. It has also been reported that Atletico Madrid are considering Hermoso’s contract.
Simeone was earlier asked whether Los Colchoneros could challenge their rivals for second place.
“Game by game, as we have said all these years, and it has gone well for us.”
Atleti are ten points removed from Real Madrid, and would need a win to keep any hope of that alive. He also clearly put the focus on qualifying for the Champions League, which is their priority for the rest of the season.