As the LaLiga season draws to its conclusion, Diego Simeone believes his side are well prepared for competing on both European and domestic fronts.
Atletico Madrid are embroiled in a race for third place with Sevilla and are seeking revenge for last season’s Champions League final defeat by beating Real Madrid in the semi-final of the competition next month.
As Los Rojiblancos prepare to face Villarreal at the Estadio Vicente Calderon on Tuesday night, Simeone believes his side have hit form at the right time.
“The season has times that you have to get through,” said the Argentine.
“All teams go through difficult stages and we had that at the start of this season and since the turn of the year we have been more regular, we’ll see if we keep that up.
“I see it [this season] like every year, we are competing well both in our football and our physicality and I hope that we keep that up against a good footballing side with a very deep 4-4-2 formation that capitalises on opponents’ mistakes with very good forwards.
“They [Villarreal] have Jonathan dos Santos, Castillejo, Bruno, Soriano… they are exceptional players.
“They’ve dropped a few points that distanced them from third place, but with the squad they have, they should be fighting for that. They have an identity, organisation and good forwards.
“We’ve got to take them to where we feel more comfortable and we are looking forward to playing at the Calderon with an atmosphere matching how the team is playing.”
Sevilla’s winless-capitulation in March allowed Atletico right back into the race for third, and Simeone is confident that his side can secure automatic qualification to next season’s Champions League group stage.
“With five games to go we are in a good position to fight with Sevilla for third place. It’s the objective of the club to keep growing,” he said.
Players playing out of position has aided Atletico’s resurgence, and Simeone believes that it is testament to the mentality of his players.
“It says a lot about the group that we’ve got,” he explained.
“When they respond to difficult situations and tactical changes made by the coach depending on the situation, it speaks volumes about them as a group.
“While we have specialists, there are people who need to play and give their lives to do so when necessary.”
Atletico have a minimum of seven games to play in the space of 26 days, but the coach knows that his side are capable of dealing with fatigue.
“We’ve always said that it has been a big problem because of situations that we’ve faced since the end of last season,” he said.
“The team always gets through and that is a great credit to them.
“We’re in a fundamental part of the season and we have to be up for it. When you feel strong, the legs follow the heart.”