Simeone bemoans Atlético form ahead of do-or-die UCL game

Diego Simeone has said he “believes 100%” in Atlético Madrid‘s ability to turn around their Champions League round-of-16 tie with Inter Milan.

However, he did admit his team have been punished for their poor form in recent weeks, saying “football doesn’t forgive you when you make mistakes.”

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Atlético were beaten 1-0 in Milan on Feb. 20 after Marko Arnautovic scored a 79th-minute winner, and host Inter in the return leg on Wednesday at the Civitas Metropolitano.

That defeat was one of five suffered by Atlético in their last eight games in all competitions, including Saturday’s 2-0 loss at Cadiz — who hadn’t won since September — in LaLiga.

“I understand everything that’s happening,” Simeone told a news conference on Tuesday.

“Until the game with [Athletic Club on Feb. 7], we were having a very good season. We were in the Copa del Rey semifinals, competing very well in the league, in the last 16 in the Champions League.

“We lost 1-0 against the best team in Europe right now, away from home [Inter]. When we’ve had the chance to have our revenge, in the last four or five games, the team hasn’t maintained the level that it had. And football doesn’t forgive you when you make mistakes.”

Atlético’s bad form has left them battling to finish in LaLiga’s top four, with in-form Athletic Club now just two points behind them in fifth place.

The team performed exceptionally well in the Champions League earlier in Simeone’s 13-year reign, reaching the finals in 2014 and 2016, but have struggled since, and were eliminated at the group stage last season.

“I don’t have much to say,” Simeone said, when asked for his reasons for believing they could beat Inter.

“Honestly I don’t have to speak too much. I believe 100% in my players, I believe 100% in my team and I know we’ll play a good game.

“On Saturday night [after the Cádiz loss] I slept badly, but on Sunday morning the sun came up and we move forward. I know what I have. I believe in my players, and I know the team we’ll pick to face a great opponent.”

Star forward Antoine Griezmann — who has scored five Champions League goals this season — suffered an ankle injury in the first leg, but trained with his teammates ahead of Wednesday’s game.

“His return to the team gives us more solutions and more possibilities in tactics and in our play,” Simeone said. “We hope he has the game he wants to have.”