Atletico Madrid approach the latest derby against Real Madrid no longer feeling inferior to their cross-city rivals, according to head coach Diego Simeone.
Despite generally playing second fiddle in Spain’s capital, Atleti have been revitalised under Simeone’s leadership – most notably when they memorably claimed the 2013-14 LaLiga title at Barcelona’s expense on the final day of the season.
They lost that year’s Champions League final to Madrid and repeated the same heartache after a penalty shootout at San Siro earlier this year in May, but they are unbeaten in the past six LaLiga encounters against their rivals, winning four of those games.
“Atletico have reversed the trend,” Simeone told a pre-match news conference ahead of the final league meeting between the clubs at the Vicente Calderon.
“It’s true that we were once inferior to Real Madrid, but now we are competing at the same level.”
An end to their domestic dominance of the fixture could have serious ramifications for Simeone’s side, who will fall nine points behind Madrid if they are defeated on Saturday.
“We know the strengths and weaknesses of Real Madrid,” Simeone continued.
“We must know how to control our own emotions and be together to be able to perform, because we perfectly well understand what we need from this game.
“I hope that the stadium will be the same as always because we need the 12th man.”
Simeone expects Atletico’s talisman Antoine Griezmann to feature in attack after overcoming the foot injury that curtailed his participation with France during the international break.
“Griezmann? He is okay, today he’s been treated again but he’s okay,” he added.