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Diego Simeone: I’m optimistic, but the Champions League is unforgiving

Atlético Madrid’s coach was looking for positives after the AC Milan defeat.

Atletico Madrid v AC Milan: Group B - UEFA Champions League Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Defeat to AC Milan was tough to take for Atlético Madrid on Wednesday evening, but coach Diego Simeone remained far more upbeat than his players, judging by their post-match comments.

In both cases, though, the hurt of the 87th-minute winner from Junior Messias was clear for all to see.

Atletico Madrid vs Milan - UEFA Champions League Photo by Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

“It was a tough, hard-fought game,” Simeone said post-match. “There was a lot of effort from both teams to take advantage of the details. They got it right when they had a chance and we didn’t with [Matheus] Cunha.

“The game escaped us.”

“The team is very hurt. It was a final, we were clear on that,” defender José María Giménez confessed. “We knew that we couldn’t fail and it was defined by a detail. We have a final in Portugal left, and we’ll try to win and see what happens.

“It’s clear that when you can’t win, what’s most important is to not lose. That concept means that when you’re at home, you go forward and we lost the ball,” Giménez continued. “We have to accept our mistakes, the blame. I was the central defender and I’m responsible.

“It hurts a lot, because defensively we’d done quite a good job, but that detail makes everything more difficult.”

Atletico Madrid v AC Milan: Group B - UEFA Champions League Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Looking on the bright side

In contrast to the pain in Giménez’s interview, the coach was seeking to find a more-positive outlook.

Despite knowing that Atlético must beat Porto in the final group game and hope that Milan do not beat Liverpool at San Siro, Cholo’s message was clear and he looked to take the positives from the performance.

I’m more optimistic than ever,” Simeone declared. “The players did all they could and there’s absolutely nothing to complain about there. In the first half you could see two teams swallowing the rival’s attack. We did good things defensively and not offensively. Neither them nor us had chances.

“Beyond the result, you can see things positively or negatively. You have to look at the best of the game, they weren’t comfortable and neither were we. There weren’t goalscoring chances. It was a hard-fought game and the details fell on one side.”

Substitutions

Many pointed to Simeone’s changes as part of where Atlético went wrong. Renan Lodi replaced Mario Hermoso and Geoffrey Kondogbia came on for Antoine Griezmann as the game wore on, with neither substitution convincing fans.

“We were looking to vary things in the second half. I’m always the first to explain if I get it wrong, but the changes were to freshen up,” Simeone explained. “We did it with Lodi on the wing and [Ángel] Correa and Cunha in attack.”

Atletico Madrid v AC Milan: Group B - UEFA Champions League Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Next up, Porto

“In the Champions League, every game is complicated,” Simeone insisted. “I’m always optimistic. I’ve been optimistic and I’m not going to change. The team will compete well in the last game. The Champions League is unforgiving and the teams that go through deserve it.

“Against Liverpool we didn’t play a game which [we] deserved to lose and today was the same, but it wasn’t enough to win either. We have to go for it in the last game.

“I’m more optimistic than ever because we’re still alive.”

But for some, the focus is even more short-term: Cádiz on Sunday.

“Now what’s needed is to turn the page. We have a game in no time, tomorrow we’ll rest and then we’re focused on Cádiz,” Giménez said.

Following a run of just one victory from their last four outings, Atlético will be desperate to get back to winning ways on the road in the south of Spain.