Simeone defends defensive tactics as title race hots up

Joseph Walker
·2-min read

By Joseph Walker

MADRID (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone has defended his defensive approach in their last few games with the La Liga title race hotting up.

Atleti started the season with an attacking verve - a far cry from their habitual defensive displays of recent seasons - that has left them top of the La Liga standings, six points clear of second-placed Barcelona.

However, in the past couple of games Los Rojiblancos look to have reverted more to type by sitting back and soaking up pressure.

While it worked in their 2-1 victory against Athletic Bilbao in midweek, they conceded a late equaliser against Real Madrid in last weekend's derby and shipped an away goal against Chelsea in their Champions League last 16 first leg.

Simeone, however, says it is only natural that with the margins so fine that players adopt a more defensive attitude.

"I was a player, and I know that you get more anxious when there's not much in a game that you want to win," he said ahead of Saturday's league trip to Getafe.

"I had a coach that said if you're one up after 90 minutes and haven't scored the second, don't go looking for it in the 93rd - win the game and finish well.

"The inertia of the game means you take a step back when the scoreline is tight. If you concede then the headlines say it's because you sat back. If you win, they say it was great teamwork."

Simeone has a fully fit squad to choose from for the first time this season after defender Jose Maria Gimenez returned to training from an adductor problem.

Atleti are on 62 points, six ahead of Barcelona, who play Huesca on Monday.

(Reporting by Joseph Walker; Editing by Christian Radnedge)