Atletico form will be tough to maintain, says Simeone

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FILE PHOTO: La Liga Santander - Cadiz v Atletico Madrid

MADRID (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone believes his side's sensational La Liga form will be tough to maintain in the second half of the season.

Leaders Atleti are on course for a 100-point season after picking up 51 points from their opening 20 games of the campaign, losing just once and shipping only 12 goals as they raced away at the top of the table.

They sit five points above second-placed Real Madrid with two games in hand and are set to repeat their 2014 title win.

"Our opponents will improve and get better, they're all very good teams and, as always in La Liga, the second half of the season is always more difficult," Simeone told a news conference ahead of Saturday's trip to Granada.

"You've got more commitments, emotions come into play, there's the Champions League factor as well as a title race," he added, with Atletico due to face Chelsea in their last-16, first leg tie in Europe's elite club competition on Feb. 23.

"Keeping up the same numbers and getting the same points in the second half of the season as you did in the first is really difficult; it's something that has very rarely happened.

"There's always something different and the second half of the campaign takes it out on you."

Simeone will be without Joao Felix, Thomas Lemar, Hector Herrera and Moussa Dembele, who continue to isolate following positive COVID-19 tests, for the trip to Andalusia.

Defender Jose Maria Gimenez missed training and will also be absent, but fellow centre-back Mario Hermoso returns after testing negative for the virus.

(Reporting by Joseph Walker; Editing by Ken Ferris)