Oblak hailed as world’s best

Goalkeeper Jan Oblak has been hailed as the best in the world by his head coach at Atletico Madrid, Diego Simeone.

The 26-year-old Slovenia international has been an outstanding performer for Los Rojiblancos since his arrival from Benfica in the summer of 2014, helping Atleti reach the Champions League final in 2016.

Oblak has also excelled in aiding the men from Madrid to enjoy success in the Europa League, the UEFA Super Cup and the Spanish Super Cup.

And Oblak was at his best at the weekend as he made several fine saves in the 2-0 home win over Celta Vigo, with Simeone clearly thankful of having such a fine keeper at his disposal.

He told the Spanish media: "Jan Oblak is the best goalkeeper in the world and we are very lucky to have him in the squad.

"I am very proud to have him in my team and for him to be in the dressing room at this club – he has improved a lot since he arrived at the club.

"When he first came, until February he had not played any games, but he's worked so hard to get a regular spot in the team.

"Right now, there is no doubt that for me he is the best goalkeeper in the world."

Atleti are back in action next Saturday afternoon, when they head to the Ipurua Municipal to take on mid-table Eibar.

The visitors are 6/4 to win the game, 6/1 to do so by a 1-0 scoreline and 7/4 to keep a clean sheet.

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La Liga: Only Atleti Can Stop Barca Title March!

Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid

Diego Simeone takes his Atletico Madrid to the Camp Nou on Saturday night, and it has to be Los Rojiblancos’ last chance to win something this season.

The game of the weekend, La Liga Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid, could virtually seal the title for Ernesto Valverde’s reigning champions, eight points clear of their visitors with eight games left. If that gap becomes 11 with seven games left I’d say that’s probably job done for Barcelona.

Real Madrid’s defeat at Valencia, Zinedine Zidane’s first as returning head coach, has put Los Blancos out of the running, 13 points behind the Catalans. So it’s all down to Atleti, who boast the best defence in Europe but they need to find a way of scoring goals at the Camp Nou.

Talking Points

Barca players take a (short) rest

The Catalans have dominated us La Liga 2019 playing the best football, winning the most games and scoring by far the most goals, 79, which is 26 more than Real Madrid, and 34 more than their weekend opponents. To say La Liga was billed as potentially a three horse race at the start of the season, Barca looks to be romping home like the thoroughbred it is. Only Atleti can come up on the rails now.

Barcelona can take a big step in sealing their La Liga title as they face top two Atletico Madrid

Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring from free-kick during their match against Villareal

Lionel Messi has been imperious as ever, and he was one of the big names, alongside centre back Gerard Pique and midfield maestro Ivan Rakitic, to be rested in the away game to relegation threatened Villarreal. It turned out to be a belter of a game, and more trouble than Valverde expected. After Barca let a 0-2 lead slip to a 4-2 deficit with time running out, Messi climbed off the bench to curl in a free-kick and save the game with his 32nd goal of the season.

Luis Suarez scored the other late goal, his 19th of the campaign, to earn Barcelona a 4-4 draw. Messi is sure to start against Los Rojiblancos, as is Pique, though Rakitic may start on the bench with Philippe Coutinho likely to get the nod.

Having beaten Lyon in the last round of the Champions League, Valverde’s men have a quarter final clash against Manchester United next week, and they may have one eye on that game, and that is Atleti’s best hope.

Atletico must go for it

Diego Simeone’s side only has a slim chance of pulling off a remarkable winning campaign and that will all but disappear unless they get a win at the Camp Nou.

The Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid news in the run up to the big match hasn’t all been good for the visitors though. Simeone will have to go into this top of the table clash without one of his key strikers. Alavaro Morata limped off in the win over Genoa on Tuesday night, and is out for two weeks with a hamstring injury. With Diego Costa also doubtful, there could be a place in the side for Nikola Kalinic as a strike partner for Antoine Griezmann.

Atleti have nothing to lose in this match and Simeone need to abandon his defensive instincts and go for the win. The visitors are already out of the Champions League having lost to Juventus after leading 2-0 after the first leg, and they went out to Girona in the Copa del Rey. They kept their league hopes alive with two late goals against Genoa, one from Diego Godin and Antoine Griezmann’s 13th of the season.

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History

Barcelona has had the better of the meetings between these two sides, winning almost half of the 59 games since 1993, 29 to Atleti’s 15 and there have been 15 draws.

The last six meetings have been very tight, producing three 1-1 draws and three marginal wins for Barca, two at 2-1 and one at 1-0.

Both teams come into the game in a rich vein of form with five wins in six, Barca drawing that classic against the Yellow Submarine, while Atleti lost to Athletic Bilbao.

The last meeting resulted in a 1-1, but there isn’t much more encouragement for the visiting fans. The Catalans have won 11, drawn three and lost one at home this season, and haven’t lost to Los Rojiblancos at the Camp Nou on the last 18 occasions.

And they are unbeaten in 15.

Betting Tip

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Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid 2-3 goals @ 1.90
April 7, 02:45 (GMT+8)

So even though this is first versus second, the Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid betting odds points quite clearly to a home win, with Barca at 1.79, the draw at 3.50 and Atleti at 4.40.

But Simeone’s men simply have to go for it. They have a defence which is hard to break down, but can they do the business at the other end? I can see it ending in a narrow win for Barca or maybe another draw.

If you fancy yet another 1-1 then that is available at 6.60!

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?? = €20 (Highly confident) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

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Simeone wary of wounded Juve

Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone has warned his players that their Champions League round of 16 tie against Juventus is far from over.

The La Liga team won last month's first leg in Spain 2-0 and are 1/4 to qualify for the quarter-finals.

Simeone remains wary of a Juve side that are riding high at the top of Serie A once again and insists his Atletico players need to focus on the whole team and not just Cristiano Ronaldo, 5/2 to score the first goal in Tuesday's second leg.

Simeone said: "I don't think we should only talk about Cristiano Ronaldo. There is [Paulo] Dybala, [Mario] Mandzukic, there are many important players for Juventus who we need to pay attention to.

"It is very difficult at half-time to say that a team is the favourite. We have to wait until the end.

"When the round starts with such important teams, you have two separate times: one at home, and one away. Whoever progresses the best in these times will win.

"They are two games. They are important knockout matches and one will go through. Whoever takes advantage of the space given will progress."

Atletico are 10/3 to keep a clean sheet in the second leg in Turin while they are available at 15/2 to win the Champions League this season.

Simeone signs new contract

Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone has signed a new contract that will keep him at the club until 2022.

The Argentine has been in charge at Atletico since 2011 and during that time the club have won the Europa League twice and La Liga in 2014.

He also led the club to two Champions League finals, their first, losing both times to Real Madrid, in 2014 and 2016.

This season they are third in the league, behind Real Madrid and leaders Barcelona and, having qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League, face Juventus in the round of 16.

The first leg is in Madrid next week with Atletico 9/5 to win, Juventus are 13/8 with the draw 21/10.

His success in Spain has led to speculation that he would make the move to the Premier League but he looks set to stay in Spain for the foreseeable future and said, on signing the new deal, that he is focused on an exciting future for the club.

On Atletico's Twitter feed Simeone said: "I see hard work, I see players focused on improving, I see excitement, I see youth.

"All of this can make us grow as a team, and I know that if the four legs remain strong and firm like they have until now, we're going to continue in the same way.

"Fans, players, officials and coaches. That's been a big strength of ours, and we must not change in the future."

Atletico lost their last La Liga game at home to Real Madrid and are back in action on Saturday when they play away to Rayo Vallecano.

Atletico are 20/1 to win this season's La Liga with Barcelona 1/7 and Real 11/2.

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Simeone waits on Godin verdict

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone has admitted that key central defender Diego Godin could opt to leave the La Liga club in the summer.

The 32-year-old Uruguay international is out of contract at the end of the season, with talks over a new deal having seemingly hit the buffers.

Inter Milan are reported to be the club leading the chase for Godin, who has also been linked with both Juventus and Manchester United.

And Simeone accepts that there is little he can do to influence the situation, as he told the Spanish media: "Both Atleti and the player are seeking the best solution for all parties. The club and Godin know what I think about this.

"If he does remain with us, it'll be because it's best for him and the club."

Godin joined Atleti in the summer of 2010 from Villarreal and has since racked up well over 350 appearances in all competitions for Los Rojiblancos, helping them success in La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Europa League.

He also helped Atleti reach the Champions League final in both 2014 and 2016, where they lost out to city rivals Real Madrid.

Godin scored in the first of those two finals, with Sergio Ramos equalising deep into injury time, before Real netted three more in extra-time to run out 4-1 winners.

He is also the joint highest-capped player for Uruguay, having made 125 appearances, the same number of Maxi Pereira.

Uruguay can be backed at 40/1 to win the 2022 World Cup, with Brazil 6/1 and Argentina 10/1.

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Costa’s injury concerns Simeone

Diego Simeone hopes Diego Costa will remain at Atletico Madrid for a long time although a foot injury has ruled the former Chelsea striker out of the Champions League match against Monaco.

A victory against Thierry Henry's side, who have only picked up one point from their first four Group A matches, will confirm Atletico's place in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Simeone's side have already won the Super Cup this season and are in contention to finish at the top of La Liga as well as triumph in the Champions League and Copa del Rey.

Simeone believes his players should be handed more plaudits, saying: "I am very respectful and always have been. Sometimes, there isn't respect for our ways, but you can't change people.

"Each person can think what they want. It's like politics.

"Diego Costa is putting in a great effort. He has pain in his foot. The medical department will evaluate what is the best for the future. I hope Costa can be with us for a long time and that he gives his all when he's well.

"I don't consider [an Atletico Madrid without Costa]. He knows what I think of him."

Atletico are 11/2 to beat Monaco 1-0 and 12/1 to win the Champions League this term. They are also available at 7/1 to win the La Liga title this season.

La Liga Preview: Leganes Aim to Shut Out Atletico Yet Again

Leganes vs Atletico Madrid

For a side which seemed destined for the drop for much of last season before a remarkable unbeaten run, Leganes will not panic about being in the bottom three after just 10 matches.

Asier Garitano got the Real Sociedad job on the back of guiding the minnows to a third season in La Liga.

The man now trying to ensure their safety in the top flight is a familiar face to many us fans, particularly those who follow the English Premier League.

Talking Points

Leganes are only one point from safety will not trouble them too much at this stage, particularly after taking four points from their last three games, hot on the heels of a memorable win little over a month ago which provided one of the La Liga 2018 highlights so far.

After famously seeing off the champions, the visit of last season’s runners-up to the Estadio Municipal de Butarque will be another occasion when they respect but do not fear their opponents.

Atletico have not exactly been without problems themselves as shown by a surprise 4-0 rout in the Champions League last week.

They recovered from that to see off Real Sociedad and are currently fourth in the table within touching distance of the top.

Diego Simeone and Atletico look to extend their 7 game unbeaten run in La Liga when they face Leganes

Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone gestures during his clubs UCL clash against Dortmund

But as coach Diego Simeone has already intimated, big things are expected of Los Rojiblancos this term; that can add to the pressure.

A slip-up in this one will certainly not be expected nor tolerated by Simeone who rested Filipe Luis, Saul, Angel Correa and Antoine Griezmann – who is this observer’s favourite to win the 2018 Ballon d’Or – from their midweek Copa del Rey win at third-tier Sant Andreu.

Gelson Martins’ goal spared their blushes after which Simeone hinted that he expects opponents to raise their game, such has been his side’s progress under his stewardship.

With this being the early kick-off, Atletico could go top – however briefly – on Saturday lunchtime. It is a game they are clearly expected to win as the La Liga 2018 betting odds clearly illustrate.

One thing they must guard against, however, is complacency.

Leganes have already given one giant a bloodied nose for that approach!

History

It seems some time since the sides met in the Segunda Division back in the 2001/2 campaign, the season in which Atletico were promoted to the top flight.

The four meetings between these sides over the past two seasons have not been ones to write home about.

Indeed, they have only produced six goals.

Last September, this fixture saw Atletico huff and puff but were unable to break the deadlock in a goalless draw.

Granted, Atletico won the return fixture in February, 4-0, when the unplayable Griezmann scored the lot.

The previous season also resulted in a 2-0 home win for Atletico, courtesy of a Fernando Torres double.

But again, the match at Leganes ended without a goal.

That is a mighty achievement for this tiny club.

Remember, this is a side from cucumber country south of the Spanish capital.

A town of 185,000 where there are streets named after AC/DC and Scorpions and a side which, as recently as 2013, had no training ground and was playing at a pitch full of potholes.

Leganes are living the dream.

Betting Tip

??
Leganes vs Atletico Madrid Asian Handicap -1.00 Atletico Madrid @ 2.35
November 3, 20:00 (GMT+8)

So what are the chances of a third successive goalless draw in this fixture?

Well, a correct score of 0-0 will actually pay out at odds of 6.00, so there is little to lose with a quick-fire bet on a repeat.

Likewise, a low-scoring encounter – Total Goals 0-1 – offers a payout of @ 2.30, while under 1.75 goal is available @ 2.21.

1×2 Atletico Madrid is offered @ 1.69 which shows an upset is unlikely, although the 1X2 draw @ 3.55 has a certain appeal.

If Leganes are to repeat their monumental victory over Barca the 1X2 odds on a home win are @ 5.00

The Double Chance on a Leganes victory or a draw comes out @ 2.08, which also suggests the hosts are not being ruled out completely.

Turning to Asian Handicap betting, + 0.75 Leganes @ 2.00 may be plumped for by die-hard home supporters but my prediction has to be an away victory.

The Europa League holders may have shipped four at Dortmund last time they played away from home, but Simeone will have made sure they now have their house in order at the back.

For that reason alone, I cannot see anything other than an Atletico victory.

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?? = €20 (Highly confident) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

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La Liga Stalemate at the Bernabeu is Just Fine for Diego

Real Madrid 0-0 Atletico Madrid

It was honours even in the Madrid derby tonight as Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid did a professional job on their hosts to frustrate Los Blancos’ fans no end.

There were more than just three points riding on this game as 79,000 packed into the Santiago Bernabeu, with a place at the top of La Liga up for grabs for Julen Lopetegui’s team. The earlier La Liga 2018 results had upped the stakes—leaders Barcelona faltering again and drawing at home to Athletic Bilbao—which meant Atletico could draw level with the Catalans with a win, while Los Blancos could go ahead of the champions.

But the result also means Atletico keep hold of the local bragging rights, unbeaten in five against their rivals. And with Barca stuttering, the La Liga 2018 odds on both Madrid teams could fall a touch in the coming days.

Highlights of the game

Antoine Griezmann has got under Sergio Ramos’ skin with his claims that he will challenge for the Ballon d’Or this season, as well as mocking the Los Blancos skipper after Atletico’s ICC victory over their rivals. And Ramos was clearly delighted when his keeper Thibaut Courtois made a great save to deny the Frenchman when he was through on goal early in the game.

Los Blancos then came close at the other end as Toni Kroos crossed for Gareth Bale, but the striker’s effort skidded back across goal and away to safety. The hosts had the lion’s share of the possession in the first half but Atletico had the better chances, and Diego Costa tested Courtois with a fierce angled drive only for the ex-Chelsea stopper to get a crucial hand to it.

Just before the break, Courtois’ opposite number got away with one. Jan Oblak whacked a clearance straight at Marco Asensio, but to his immense relief the ball bounced back into his arms and the halftime score remained 0-0.

Lopetegui rung a change with his halftime substitution, bringing on Daniel Ceballos to replace Gareth Bale—it seems the Welshman had a slight muscle injury which the manager didn’t want to aggravate.

Atleti keeper Jan Oblak has played a huge role in hindering Real Madrid from winning in recent La Liga battle

Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak in action against Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio during Madrid derby at Santiago Bernabeu

Ceballos had an impact and almost provided a goal for Asensio with a beautiful ball in from the left, but Oblak saved brilliantly.

Costa hadn’t had the best of nights and was hooked by Simeone on 70 minutes, to be replaced by defensive midfielder Thomas Partey. And that seemed to signal that the Atletico boss was happy to see the game out for a draw.

Real pressed as Los Rojiblancos sat back, with Asensio getting in good positions on the flank, but the visitors’ defence, led by Diego Godin, worked well to clear his crosses. While the time ticked away, Ramos made his way into the Atletico penalty area as the balls reigned in on Oblak’s goal, but the Atletico defence stood firm.

Key statistics

With 65 percent possession and 15 shots to eight, Los Blancos had enough of this game to win it. However, they simply couldn’t break down Atletico’s resistance. Los Rojiblancos are now unbeaten in five Madrid derbies, with both La Liga meetings last season ending in a draw.

Simeone’s defence was resolute and uncompromising, making 30 clearances and committing 17 fouls, ten more than their courteous hosts!

In the end, it was a good day for the keepers and defences, and a welcome point for Atletico who are now just two points off the top places occupied by Real and Barca.

What’s next?

After Los Blancos’ midweek humiliation in Seville, this was an improvement. They certainly didn’t look like conceding in the second half but couldn’t find the killer touch.

Real Madrid now have two stiff challenges on tour this week, first to Moscow to play CSKA who scored a 95th-minute goal to snatch a draw against Plzen in their Champions League opener. Lopetegui’s team could do with at least a draw there to keep up their progress in Group G, and you can keep up with all the European football news right here at us.

Then it’s Alaves away in La Liga. Head coach Abelardo has led the Basque team to a fine start, winning 11 points from the first six games, and they are fast becoming an established top-flight club.

Atletico have two home games to look forward to, both testing but winnable, as Club Brugge arrive in Madrid for a Champions League fixture before Real Betis visit them in La Liga next weekend.

 

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Simeone happy with fine display

Diego Simeone thought his Atletico Madrid side's performance in the 2-0 win against Getafe had been their best of the season.

It had been a disappointing start to the campaign for Atleti who had only won one of their opening four games.

However, they performed well against Getafe on Saturday with Thomas Lemar scoring the second goal after the deadlock had earlier been broken when his 30-yard strike had hit the crossbar and gone into the net off the back of goalkeeper David Soria.

"Possibly the best [performance] in the league," said Simeone afterwards.

"The best was the Super Cup against Real Madrid when we controlled the game for the majority. We knew we could hurt them and played as we had trained to.

"Getafe created some danger but without any clear chances and we controlled the game."

Atleti beat Monaco in the Champions League in midweek and can be backed at 1/16 to qualify from their group.

Simeone's team are also available at 7/1 to win the Copa del Rey in 2018/19 while they are 1/5 to beat Huesca in their next game on 25th September.

Griezmann believes in Atleti dream

Antoine Griezmann says he has full confidence in Atletico Madrid's ability to compete for top honours under Diego Simeone, otherwise he'd have left for Barcelona.

The French World Cup-winning striker considers himself to be ranked alongside the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappe as the world's best footballers.

Griezmann had the chance to swap Atleti for Spanish champions Barca this summer but he declined.

The reigning Europa League winners have lost two Champions League finals in recent times, both to city rivals Real Madrid, and Griezmann has no doubts they'll continue to dine at the top table.

"There are different ways to look at football," Griezmann said. "It's obvious that I'm a different player to Cristiano, Messi, Neymar or Mbappe.

"I'm at the top but I can get better. I want to be the most complete I can be. I'm not going to score 50 goals, but I look to help in attack and work for the team."

Asked whether he was dining at the same table as Messi, he said: "Yes, I think so. But I know other players will emerge for sure. At that table, there are nice pictures I have, and I enjoy it there, but I know that I can get better."

Atletico Madrid are 3/4 to start their latest Champions League quest with a win over Monaco on Tuesday. The Ligue 1 side are 19/4 to get the win on home soil, with the draw available at 13/5.

Griezmann, 7/2 to score first, has no doubts that Atletico are going the right way under Simeone's steer.

"Saying no to Barcelona shows Atletico's greatness, [coach] Diego Simeone, my teammates," he added.

"If they were bad, I'd be gone. But I have confidence in Simeone, in the club and in my teammates. I want to make them grow and I have confidence in them to make me grow.

"We have helped each other a lot and everything is very positive so that this keeps improving."

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