However, Diego Simeone spoke in his post-match press conference to underline the positives and look forward with optimism.
“We had dangerous chances and played with great intensity,” Simeone insisted. “I would say this was among our best games of the season. We were calm to not lose our order and go crazy, but it’s clear that the goal didn’t come.
“Goalkeepers are there to save chances, and I think that we played much better than the away game against them and I stay with the positives.”
The coach looked for the optimistic point of view in his press conference, but cut a frustrated figure who was not enjoying his time in front of the press.
One of the major headlines came on the sidelines, where João Félix reacted furiously when Simeone opted to replace Antoine Griezmann with Axel Witsel, rather than the Portuguese forward.
¡CABREO de @joaofelix70 con el Cholo!— Tiempo de Juego (@tjcope) October 12, 2022
️¡JOAO FELIX ha tirado el peto de calentamiento en mitad de la zona técnica al no ser elegido para salir al campo!
✅Simeone ha preferido a Witsel#UCL pic.twitter.com/4sDQQNVdRR
“I understood the change in the moment, with Cunha on the right, Morata in the middle. But I saw them generating danger with the counter-attack, I felt that we needed security in central midfield and Griezmann was tiring defensively,” Simeone explained.
“Axel helped us, he was very good, he balanced the game so we didn’t lose and end up out of the Champions League, and that was the decision I made. I haven’t seen anything else after that.”
The coach went on to elaborate on the attacking line-up that Atleti put out. Ángel Correa and Antoine Griezmann started without a recognised number nine leading the way.
“The form of Griezmann and Correa is good,” Simeone stated. “Antoine offers us a lot in midfield, but he’s a forward and he has a lot of quality and can play alongside many players if he keeps up this level.
“The moment matters, and I try to stick to what I feel and how I see every player at that moment.”
Champions League qualification
Again, Simeone tried to look at the positives from the performance and had only praise for his players, despite the disappointment of the result.
“I’m optimistic, I look to the important areas of the team,” the Argentine said. “From the subs, Morata had chances, Rodrigo (de Paul) looked to link things up, Axel associates our play, Carrasco was electric, and all those who started generated what I like to see with pressing and intensity and not letting the other team have the ball.
With two games left to play, Atleti have four points from the first four and now depend on the results of Porto and Bayer Leverkusen, with a trip to Portugal and a visit from Xabi Alonso’s side still to come.
“Words are very nice, but the reality is the reality ... After this result, it’s definitely more complicated and the only good thing is that we have to win,” Simeone responded bluntly when asked about the chances of reaching the knock-out stages.
However, El Cholo was also keen to highlight that this is not a new phenomenon. Instead, he looked back to the team’s recent history in the Champions League.
“For (several) seasons, this season, last season and the one before, we’ve found it difficult in this stage of the season,” he said, evidently irritated. “The numbers don’t lie and our journey to the last 16 is difficult. “First we have to look to Bilbao, and then we’ll think about our next Champions League game.”
Partido a partido is the approach from a coach who finds himself under pressure before the Champions League group stage is over once again.