Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone believes his side can now count themselves as equals when facing Real Madrid in the last La Liga derby at Atletico’s Vicente Calderon stadium on Saturday.
Simeone has overseen a dramatic turnaround in Atletico’s fortunes since taking over nearly five years ago, including ending a 14-year winless streak against Real to win the Copa del Rey in 2013.
Since then Atletico have lost two Champions League finals to Real, but haven’t lost in their last six league meetings with the European champions.
“We believe in our own strengths, we know our own virtues and, above all, our own deficiencies,” said Simeone on Friday.
“We know there was a long time when they were better than us and nowadays we compete on a par with them.
“It is obvious one match is not a league, it is just one match and anything can happen.”
Atletico won’t be short of motivation in the first clash between the sides since Real edged May’s Champions League final on penalties.
The club plans to move to a new 67,000 capacity stadium next season, but as well as possibly hosting Real for the final time at the Calderon, Atletico are also in more need of the points as they trail the league leaders by six points.
“The fans will be the same as always, we need them to be the 12th man,” added Simeone.
Whilst Real are injury-ravaged without four key players in Pepe, Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Alvaro Morata, Atletico hope to be at full-strength should top-scorer Antoine Griezmann shake off a bruised left foot to start.
“He is better, he trained normally yesterday,” said Simeone when quizzed on Griezmann’s fitness.
“This morning he was treated again. He is making a huge effort to be fit.
“I hope he finishes training today in good shape and to be able to include him in the squad.”
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