MADRID: Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone said he was happy with a point after the champions were held to a 0-0 draw at Sevilla in a bruising La Liga game on Sunday that left them five points behind second placed Barcelona.
Simeone has insisted Atletico are focused on securing third place and a lucrative Champions League berth rather than challenging Barca and leaders Real Madrid to win a second consecutive Spanish title.
Sunday’s result left them a point ahead of fourth-placed Valencia, who won 2-0 at home to Real Sociedad and play at Atletico next weekend, with Sevilla seven points further back in fifth.
“We are taking each game at a time,” Simeone told a news conference after the clash at the Sanchez Pizjuan in which the referee booked 11 players, including seven from Atletico.
“Obviously, it’s a good point because we were playing a direct rival and now we have to think about the next,” added the former Argentina captain, who had spells as a player at both Atletico and Sevilla.
Simeone appeared to be playing for a draw from the start in Seville, deploying Antoine Griezmann as a lone forward in front of a five-man field.
After failing to create any chances from open play in the first half, Atletico did look more dangerous when Fernando Torres replaced Arda Turan with half an hour left and Simeone praised the Spain forward for his work rate and commitment.
Torres appears happy to play a supporting role to Griezmann and striker Mario Mandzukic following January’s loan move back to his boyhood club from AC Milan.
“His entrance made us stronger coming out of defence and better at linking up in attack,” Simeone said.
“We need men with his characteristics and the enthusiasm with which he came into the game.
“We need people who understand that there is nobody more important than the team. Nobody, not even the coach.”
After Valencia visit the Calderon, Atletico play at Espanyol before attempting to overturn a 1-0 deficit when they host Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen in their Champions League last 16, second leg on March 17.