Simeone: Costa's presence has boosted Griezmann
Diego Simeone believes the January introduction of Diego Costa into the Atletico Madrid first team has helped Antoine Griezmann move to the next level with an extraordinary period of goalscoring form.
Griezmann struck all four goals in a 4-0 defeat of Leganes in LaLiga on Wednesday, following up his treble in a 5-2 win at Sevilla four days earlier.
The France international brought up 100 Atletico goals in all competitions with his first of the game before going on to reach 15 LaLiga strikes for the term, with only three players more prolific this season - Iago Aspas, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi.
With 13 goals in all competitions since Costa's return from Chelsea, Griezmann's strikes have helped Atleti cut Barca's lead at the top of LaLiga to four points ahead of Sunday's showdown between the top two at Camp Nou, although Ernesto Valverde's men first face Las Palmas on Thursday.
And although Griezmann's stunning goalscoring shone in a comfortable win over Leganes to warm up for Barca, Simeone was keen to hail Atletico's collective efforts.
"The season until December had been very good for the team," Simeone told a post-match news conference.
"Costa's presence not only improved Griezmann's moment, but that of the team. For his tenacity, courage and what he transmits to the team.
"The team is in a good moment, and from humility we go match by match as always.
"The moment is good for the team, we need to focus on continuing to improve as a team. The team was more forceful than in Sevilla at the end of the game [where Atleti conceded two late goals] - that speaks of an improvement.
"Now to prepare the Barcelona match in the best way, against a rival who has never lost. It's a nice challenge."
Griezmann's relationship with Atleti supporters has occasionally been sticky, with the striker criticised for 'shushing' fans during a 1-0 win over Valencia at the start of February.
"People are passionate, they are behind what they perceive," Simeone said. "They want to win, and if they see players who give everything, run, work and score they will always be applauded. It happens at Atletico and in all the teams of the world.
"[Griezmann] had other seasons playing at this level. He is an extraordinary player, he has shown it more times, and the team is accompanying him to perform at this level. The passes of Koke, Filipe [Luis] and Costa were fantastic."