Things hotting up for Barcelona as Diego Simeone invokes spirit of late coach in title race

Things hotting up for Barcelona as Diego Simeone invokes spirit of late coach in title race

Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone invoked the spirit of late coach Luis Aragones after his side beat Granada 3-0 to reaffirm their title ambitions, saying they must "win, win and win" if they are to overhaul leaders Barcelona.

Goals from Koke, Fernando Torres and Angel Correa guided the second-placed Rojiblancos to a third straight league victory that kept the pressure on Luis Enrique's pacesetters, but Simeone exercised caution when asked if his team were capable of winning the title.

"We have the chance to put in a big performance in Bilbao next week and keep competing in the four games we have left. It will be hard, but we will do what the fixture list demands and asks of us: win, win and win," said Simeone, echoing a famous comment made by former Atletico coach Aragones.

Simeone was speaking before Barcelona's shock 2-1 home defeat to Valencia on Sunday evening, a result which left the top two level on 76 points and Real Madrid just a point back in third.

Although Atletico are now right back in the title hunt, Simeone admitted his side had under-performed in the first half against Granada after Koke gave them the lead on 15 minutes.

"We did not play well after the goal, Granada had chances on the counter-attack down the right. We weren't able to impose ourselves on the game but we spoke about it at half-time and from the start of the second half we coped better," he said.

And he praised the impact of Koke, who has provided four assists and scored two goals in his last five appearances.

"He's an extraordinary player for us. As we said in pre-season, he is more dangerous when he plays inside. He reads the game better and exploits the strikers' movements better," he said of the Spain midfielder.

Simeone also celebrated the fact Atletico secured qualification for next season's Champions League group stage.

"We are very happy to have achieved the club's objective and qualified for the Champions League. It may have gone a bit unnoticed but it gives us immense happiness," said Simeone, whose side are in the last four of this season's competition after knocking out holders Barca in the quarter-finals.

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