Simeone urges Atletico not to fixate on Griezmann’s return when Barcelona visit

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone does not want his side to fixate on the return of Antoine Griezmann when Barcelona head to Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday.

France forward Griezmann joined Barca in a protracted summer transfer, which saw bad feeling over the 120million euros (£107.6million) fee which Atletico felt was “insufficient” to cover the buyout clause.

The World Cup winner spent some five seasons with Simeone’s squad, helping them lift the Europa League in 2018 as he scored twice in the final against Marseille.

Former Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann (centre) celebrates
Antoine Griezmann (centre) was a key player at Atletico Madrid (Nick Potts/PA)

Simeone refused to be drawn on the saga as he prepared for Sunday’s showdown against Barca, who are aiming to go back to the top of LaLiga following Real Madrid’s win at Alaves.

“Talking about Griezmann, I’m not going to do it because he plays on another team. I was always clear about what I think of him when we shared a team,” the Atletico boss said.

“What people do is their decision, I can’t get into his head.”

Simeone said at a press conference: “The history and numbers (of Griezmann at the club) speak for themselves and I have nothing more to add.

“Now, we seek to improve and have more chances to be more concrete and be more aggressive in both areas.”

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde is also hoping Griezmann will not face too hostile a reception.

“People will receive you as they see fit. The reality is that he has had some great seasons there and has gone through a transfer in between the clubs – but that should not influence us,” he said.

“We are used to playing with harsh environments, both for and against the team.

“It will be an emotional match for him, but also an important challenge.”

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Atletico lost their midweek Champions League fixture 1-0 away to Juventus, but Simeone is confident of progress on Sunday.

“Every time we have faced Barcelona, we have worked hard to compete in the best way possible to try to win the game,” Simeone said at a press conference, as reported by Marca.

“Our opponents are in very good share and have had a fantastic week. They play great football and have extraordinary players.

“We have trained very well and we played a good match in Turin. So we hope to continue in the same way, but with a different result.”

Barcelona will be without forward Ousmane Dembele for around 10 weeks.

The France international sustained a hamstring injury during the Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund, which will also rule him out of the home clasico with Real Madrid on December 18.

“Dembele is a big loss, it was unexpected,” Barcelona coach Valverde told a press conference.

“I’ve spoken to him and he’s more relaxed now. We’ll cover his loss with reserve players, who have been responding very well.”

Valverde is expecting nothing other than a stern test from Sunday’s trip to the capital.

“Atletico are good on attack and strong on defence, they are cohesive,” he said.

“It will be an attractive match. We have to run (without the ball), but also play.”

Valverde added: “The game is important for two reasons – first to regain the leadership in the table and then for the team spirit we will have through to the end of the year.”

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