Griezmann “one of the world’s best”, says Simeone ahead of Barca battle


Madrid (AFP) – Diego Simeone has hailed Antoine Griezmann as one of the best players in the world ahead of Atletico Madrid’s La Liga showdown with Barcelona on Sunday.

Barcelona’s lead at the top of the table has been cut to five points before the top-of-the-table clash, with Atletico, and Griezmann, hoping to reduce it just two at the Camp Nou this weekend.

Griezmann has been in sparkling form in recent weeks. The Frenchman has scored seven goals in his last two matches and 12 in his last nine.

“Antoine is an extraordinary footballer and when he is at his level like this, he is one of the best, and it is clear that in his present position he is in the perfect place,” Simeone said on Saturday.

“Except for the five months when he joined and the beginning of this season, he has always been very consistent and to be consistent in football is very difficult. 

“Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, they become what they are by having continuity, they do not get tired of scoring goals, they do not get tired of winning titles, and this is the goal of those who are pushing to get closer to this place.”

Atletico against Barcelona has been billed as a battle between Griezmann and Messi, who himself has 34 goals already this season. 

Simeone admitted there is no plan that can fully contain the Argentinian forward. 

“Having a footballer like Lionel, who is in an extraordinary moment, it is clear that there is no strategy that can control something that we all want to control,” Simeone said. 

“It is impossible because what he has is something natural.”

For Barcelona, the challenge is to regain momentum and confidence, following Thursday’s 1-1 draw at Las Palmas.

Ernesto Valverde’s men looked uncatchable when they pulled 11 points clear at the top in January but a patchy run of form has given Atletico hope.

“It is a situation where we have to live with this intention and give everything to win the game, because the prize is very juicy, for us to be ahead of second by eight points,” Valverde said. 

“In this we have to focus. They will also think: ‘we can get to two’. If we draw everything remains the same, but whoever wins makes an important jump.”

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