Atletico Madrid, Clubs, Spanish Primera División, Story

Following their back-to-back draws against Qarabag, the ESPN FC panel question if Atletico Madrid’s UCL dominance is done.

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone says he remains optimistic that his team can return to their previous “solid” foundations but is not oblivious to their problems.

Atletico have now won one of their last eight games across all competitions, with Tuesday’s 1-1 Champions League Group C draw at home to outsiders Qarabag a huge blow to their chances of progressing to the knockout stage.

They remain unbeaten in La Liga so far this term, but recent draws against Leganes and Villarreal have seen them drop to fourth in the table, eight points behind leaders Barcelona.

Simeone told a news conference ahead of Saturday afternoon’s La Liga trip to Deportivo La Coruna that he knew from experience that his team could work their way out of difficult situations.

“I will not change what I think, no matter what people try to look for,” Simeone said. “We remain a competitive team, who over the season will find their objectives.

“Last year people said we were out of everything, and then later they said we were the same solid team as always. I believe in the work we are doing, in the players. I am convinced there is no other way to improve than with hard work and optimism — although I know there are things that must improve in the team. I am not blind either.”

Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid side have performed below expectations so far this season.

Simeone said that out-of-form individuals — such as star forward Antoine Griezmann, who has gone six games without a goal — would do better when the team as a whole was working well.

“We are a team, and depending on how we function as a team, individuals can improve what they provide,” he said. “That is how we reach our top level — we need full commitment from everyone. We do not depend on one player, we do not have a player who wins us games on his own.”

Left-back Filipe Luis picked up a hamstring injury late against Qarabag, and joins Koke and Yannick Carrasco on the injured list.

“We hope [Carrasco and Koke] return as quickly as possible,” Simeone said when it was put to him that the pair had been expected to return by now.

Depor had a poor start to the season under previous manager Pepe Mel, but won 3-1 at Las Palmas last weekend in the first game under former youth-team coach Cristobal Parralo.

“After the change of coach, they did very well against Las Palmas,” Simeone said. “They have good players, above all in attack; people in midfield who are good on the ball, who get forward well, and a team good in the air as they are almost all tall players.”

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan

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