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Diego Simeone: “We’re more focused on the game than on the referee”

The head coach spoke about the Madrid derby.

SS Lazio v Atletico Madrid: Group E - UEFA Champions League 2023/24 Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Atlético Madrid head coach Diego Simeone spoke to the press on Saturday ahead of the derby against Real Madrid at the Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano on Sunday night. One of the first questions he was asked was about the refereeing in recent derbies, with Javier Alberola Rojas chosen as the man in the middle for this weekend’s meeting.

We’re more focused on the game than on the referee,” Simeone responded. “We have to leave the referee to it, he’s a good referee. It’ll be his first derby and he’ll want to do it well, like the players, so we need to focus on playing a good game.”

Simeone on the fixture

“We prepare for the game with the excitement we have for every league game. We’re facing a strong team who is very assured of itself, who have been missing big players and they’ve got through it. It’ll be a difficult game, as it always is against Real Madrid, and we’ll try to find the best way to take them on.”

SS Lazio v Atletico Madrid: Group E - UEFA Champions League 2023/24 Photo by Ivan Romano/Getty Images

On recovering from Mestalla and Rome

“It’s an important league game. We have to do it in the best way, the same as every game that we have ahead. The Champions League is behind us after a good game in Rome and we want to continue the performance from Rome.”

On injuries

“I think every team has injuries, yesterday I heard Pep Guardiola talking about injuries in the best team in the world, and he explained it well with so many games now, us coaches have to handle it. We have to do the best recovery with less time, and the teams who do that best will benefit, but injuries will happen. It’s clear that when you have stability with 12 or 13 players continually, it’s better for the team because it’s more complex when you have to make changes. But we have to get through it because it will happen, every team has it.”

On fixture congestion

“I repeat what I said and what Guardiola said yesterday. It’s what I said before the season when Courtois and Militão got injured, then De Bruyne. There’s a lot of games, a lot of journeys, international breaks between now and December, we have to adjust and try to adapt to what we have and do the best we can because we want the best result possible.”

On Koke’s fitness

“Koke’s been in a conservative recovery plan, physically he’s good and he’s back in training. He’s available and we’ll decide if he starts or if we wait to have him in the second half.”

Atletico Madrid v Granada CF - LaLiga EA Sports Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

On competing with Real Madrid

“I don’t refer to signings, I’ve been here for 10 or 11 years and Real Madrid and Barcelona have always had great teams because they are big clubs with great players and we have always competed well. What we have to do is keep improving, keep focusing on ourselves and believing in ourselves to compete and do what we can to compete.”

On Atlético’s 1 win from the past 14 derbies in LaLiga

“There’s nothing to talk about, the statistics are there and that’s it.”