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“The team is starting to compete in a great way”: Simeone thrilled with Atlético’s display against Valencia

El Cholo and two of his players analyzed Saturday night’s win.

Atletico de Madrid v Valencia CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images

Atlético Madrid are entering the international break on a 10-game unbeaten run in LaLiga following Saturday night’s convincing 3-0 win over struggling Valencia. Diego Simeone’s side is guaranteed to remain third entering April and are provisionally within five points of second-place Real Madrid. Carlo Ancelotti’s men play a Clásico against FC Barcelona on Sunday night.

Antoine Griezmann opened the scoring midway through the first half on Saturday with a sliding left-footed finish — his eighth goal against Valencia as a Rojiblanco. Yannick Carrasco doubled Atleti’s lead four minutes after halftime and Thomas Lemar completed the scoring with a nicely-cushioned close-range header from Álvaro Morata’s cross, his first goal this season.

“When we feel the support of the fans pushing us, it’s like a wave of water pushing us to the end,” Carrasco told the club’s official channels. “It’s something positive for the team. I encourage the fans to continue like this until the season ends.”

The Cívitas Metropolitano’s south stand was in full voice as Atlético’s ultras temporarily lifted their singing strike over the club’s refusal to put forth a referendum on the six-year-old badge. Tensions in and around the club have returned to a simmering state as Atleti have improved on the pitch — the Colchoneros have rung up five wins from their past six league games, and they’ve scored nine goals in the past two home matches.

Atletico Madrid v Valencia - La Liga Photo by Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

“I’m happy because the team is doing very well, the group and the team are beginning to compete in a great way,” Simeone said on broadcaster DAZN post-match. “We are a complex and difficult team. In the first half, we could have finished chances better, it was a good showing, but we couldn’t find the forcefulness that would have made the game more comfortable.

“In the second half the goals appeared. Carrasco finished a very good action with Rodrigo (de Paul), plays that (we had not been able to convert) in the first half and we talked about it at halftime. We are happy with the team’s growth.”

Simeone won his 260th LaLiga match on Saturday, moving into third all-time in the category. His substitutions once again paid off as Atlético looked to add some sheen to the scoreline. Lemar’s 67th-minute header was the 13th goal scored by an Atleti substitute this season — no team in Europe has more.

On the other end, the Atlético defense limited Valencia to one shot on target and kept its sixth clean sheet in nine games. The Rojiblancos are now on pace to allow only 28 goals this season after shipping 43 in 2021/22.

“We can’t know for sure (what’s changed since the World Cup). We continue to work in the same way, there are times when things work out,” Marcos Llorente, who assisted Griezmann’s goal, told DAZN postmatch. “Before we went to the World Cup, things didn’t work out for us, and now everything is working for us.

“If it’s mathematically possible to reach Real Madrid, we’re going to give it our all.”