Simeone anticipated tough spell but happy Atletico stayed patient

Omnisport

Diego Simeone was happy with the way Atletico Madrid stuck together following a tough January, claiming all teams have to weather difficult periods.

Atleti endured a five-match winless run in all competitions between January 12 and February 1, a stretch that was bookended by derby defeats to Real Madrid.

However, Simeone remained in charge and his side are unbeaten in four since, enjoying three victories - including a 1-0 defeat of Liverpool in their Champions League last-16 first leg.

The Atleti coach was not looking for excuses as he reflected on the team's previous struggles on Saturday, although he suggested such spells were to be expected.

"When you are planning a new season, you know there might be difficult and complex times like the ones we've been through," Simeone told a news conference ahead of Sunday's clash with Espanyol.

"For every team, there is a different part of the season where, because of injuries or bad results, they are in a difficult moment.

"I know it is just a phase of the season. We have to keep the balance and strength, be patient and hold together during those bad moments."

This week's opponents Espanyol are bottom of LaLiga, but Simeone is expecting a tough test for fourth-place Atleti.

"We are fighting for different objectives but a victory is important for both teams," he said. "When it comes to this part of the season, the needs are very important for both teams.

"I know it will be an intense, hard match, with a lot of contact in the midfield. The little details will decide which way the match goes."

Atleti's game is not the only clash between sides from Madrid and Barcelona this weekend, with El Clasico kicking off five hours later on Sunday.

However, with both Madrid and Barcelona well clear of third place, Simeone insists he has no interest in the match as his sole focus is on Espanyol.

"I don't even think about it," he said. "We're only thinking about our game against Espanyol and about our job, which is La Liga and getting the points we need."

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