Simeone confident in Copa shuffling for Rayo return


Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone suggested he will stick with the policy of rotating his line-up for Copa del Rey matches despite almost coming unstuck in the first-leg of their tie with Rayo Vallecano.

Atleti host their near neighbours to conclude the last-16 tie on Thursday with the score level at 1-1.

Rayo took advantage of a listless Atletico during the opening 45 minutes last week and took a deserved lead through Tito's long-range strike.

The visitors improved after half-time but it required the intervention of two substitutes - Luciano Vietto crossing for Saul Niguez to score - to ensure the Liga leaders headed back to the Vicente Calderon all square

"Tomorrow we will play with the squad that we believe will be able to win the tie and, obviously, with the players that we believe can win the match," Simeone told a pre-match media conference.

"These are players who have always been competitive in every match they have played."

The first-leg display was the latest patchy display following a surprise 1-0 loss at Malaga before Christmas, but Simeone felt his players were back to something approaching top form as they dispatched Celta Vigo 2-0 on Sunday to remain two points clear of champions Barcelona at the Liga summit.

"I think we are progressing," he said. "Since the game against Malaga we have had very good moments.

"In these last games we have not been playing very well but had performances that were good enough to have results

"Those games always leave you feeling that the team can perform better. The other day in Vigo we saw a great team both in the result and in the game played."

Augusto Fernandez played 54 minutes against his former club last time out, having made his Atletico debut alongside fellow midfielder Matias Kranevitter at Rayo last week.

Simeone will be patient for the new men to find top form within his team's structure.

"The growth of the team may have ups and downs in this situation, so we have always been talking about the people who are adapting," he added.

"As soon as people adapt, the team plays better because it is the guys who give us a quality leap."