Atletico Madrid face Lazio in their Champions League opener in Rome on Tuesday night, and they do so coming off a humbling 3-0 defeat to Valencia at Mestalla. In spite of that, Diego Simeone told the press he was looking forward to the competition, and downplayed the defeat.
El Cholo told Diario AS that he was looking forward to being back at the Stadio Olimpico and in front of the Lazio fans. Simeone once had a spell with them as a player. He also did his best to explain their defeat to Valencia on Saturday.
“We have a way of playing, the other day the game didn’t start in the best way, it went bad quickly. Beyond not having a good game, the cross hits Savic, the shot hits Witsel, we didn’t start well and we couldn’t improve. We played a bad game and another one comes soon. The Champions League is coming, a competition that has been very difficult for us, and we face it with enthusiasm and as a great challenge that we have outstanding.”
Atletico had only conceded once in their previous three matches, and had been excellent until then, but collapsed in the face of the Valencia intensity.
One of the issues that Simeone also has to solve his left wing-back-cum-winger role. Rodrigo Riquelme started ahead of more natural options in Javi Galan and Samuel Lino on Sunday. He also gave an insight into how he regards those options.
“All three have different characteristics. Galan is a winger converted into a winger or a carrilero with more defensive traits than offensive, Riquelme with spaces can generate quick transitions and Lino is more associative, with an associative game so that the team can find speed and possession of the ball in their half. Lino did not play because he had a mini-injury, he understood that after 45 minutes there was no need to take risks with his presence and for tomorrow he is fresh in the same way as Riquelme, who was correct defensively and could not respond offensively. We will try to find what works best for the team.”
Many had expected Galan to be the natural replacement for Yannick Carrasco, who left for Al Shabab in Saudi Arabia after the transfer window shut. Yet it is Lino and Riquelme who have been given their shot there, with Simeone clearly preferring a more attacking outlet on the left side.