Madrid (AFP) – Diego Simeone has pledged his full support to Diego Costa, despite the Atletico Madrid striker’s La Liga drought ahead of Saturday’s derby against Real Madrid.
Costa scored twice against Real as Atletico lifted the European Super Cup in August and, going further back, he hit the winner at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2013, before leaving to join Chelsea.
He has struggled for goals this season, however, managing only one in the Champions League against Monaco while in La Liga he has not found the net since February, a run that includes 15 matches.
“I see him being in fantastic form and for me, in the first half the other day (against Huesca), he was above everyone else, he played very well,” Simeone said on Friday.
“He was involved in our first goal with an assist and was always always moving and causing problems. Physically, he is strong and against Madrid, I expect him to have a great game.”
Atletico will jump above their city rivals with a win this weekend, after reducing a seven-point gap to two over the last fortnight.
As well as recording back-to-back wins over Getafe and Huesca, Real have slipped up against Athletic Bilbao before being blown away on Wednesday by Sevilla.
“I look beyond the last game when I look at Madrid,” Simeone said. “They didn’t have a good match in the first half but that can happen against Sevilla because they are a great team.
“I look at them and think about the talent and potential they have. We know we’re going to face one of the best teams in the world.”
Real had made an excellent start to the season, with many predicting Julen Lopetegui’s team could prove more unified and better balanced without Cristiano Ronaldo.
But five points dropped in three games, and a worrying susceptibility to counter-attacks against Sevilla, has allowed doubts to creep in.
“In football everything can change very fast,” Lopetegui said.
“Immediately we have a magnificent challenge, a derby against Atletico, and just as we did not get carried away by the victories, we don’t get bogged down by a defeat.”
Marcelo pulled up with an injury against Sevilla, which Real confirmed on Friday as a calf strain.
The full-back is expected to be out for around two weeks, with his availability for Real’s Champions League trip to CSKA Moscow on Tuesday also in doubt.
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