Simeone takes charge of Atletico’s matches as Griezmann approaches his return

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Diego Simeone acknowledges that his inability to find a winning formation is key to Atletico Madrid’s season below par as the LaLiga champions prepare to welcome Antoine Griezmann back.

Atletico won the title last year and seemed ready for back-to-back successes as they recruited well, while Real Madrid and Barcelona experienced only limited transfer business.

Rodrigo De Paul arrived from Udinese and Matheus Cunha from Hertha Berlin before Griezmann returned on loan from Barca.

Although Griezmann only scored three league goals before suffering a hamstring injury in early January, Atletico have thrived on offense. With 42 goals, they are in third place in LaLiga.

In contrast, the defensive foundation on which Simeone’s success is built seems to be no more. Only seven teams have conceded more than their 33 to 23 matches – Atletico’s most at this stage of a season under Simeone.

Atletico have conceded two or more goals in eight of their last nine league games and come into Wednesday’s match against Levante outside the Champions League places in fifth place.

Given that late winners from Mario Hermoso have saved results in two of their last three matches, which has contributed to a league-high 15 points won with goals scored in the last 15 minutes of matches this season, Atletico’s position could be even worse.

Simeone continues to seek a solution to his side’s bad form, but he believes that may actually be the problem.

The Atletico coach, who diverted questions about his future after “10 wonderful years” in Madrid, said ahead of the Levante match: “There are many years that play the same way, but every year is not the same.

“After the pandemic, when everyone saw us out of the Champions League, after the match with Liverpool, we were four or five points behind them above us and it was very difficult with 11 match days left.

“The team followed a plan in 4-4-2 and we won eight matches and a draw three and you saw on the pitch what the team would do.

“Last season we started with 4-4-2, we saw that we needed a change. We went to 5-3-2 and after that line the team had a plan and took it further in a good way.

“This season I take responsibility, I was constantly changing in search of better things. Let’s see if I choose well now and they follow the path I want to choose.”

While Atletico’s problems are clearly at the back, the attack is only set to get stronger with Griezmann’s involvement. However, he will not play against Levante.

“We are delighted to have Griezmann back,” Simeone said. “He will return on Thursday to train with the team. We will have him for the Osasuna match soon [on Saturday].

“Except for [Angel] Correa and Matheus, who do a great job, we also have Luis [Suarez]João [Felix], very important players in a crucial position. The more competition between them, the team will always win. ”

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