Diego Simeone targets a strong finish to La Liga season ahead of trip to Cordoba

Andy West 04:17 04/04/2015
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Leading by example: Diego Simeone’s side remain within eight points of first place.

Diego Simeone has labelled Atletico’s trip to struggling Cordoba today as a “cup final” in their quest for a top-three finish. Last month the reigning La Liga champions dropped one point behind in-form Valencia into fourth place with a run of three consecutive draws, scoring just one goal in the process.

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From the start of the season, Simeone has routinely insisted that his team’s chief ambition for the season is to secure a place in the top three rather than pushing to retain their title.

He said: “The rest of the season is going to be very hard. We have to go from game to game. We have 10 cup finals remaining and this is one of them. Cordoba will not be easy and we will have to be at maximum intensity.”

It will be Simeone’s first game in charge since signing a new five-year contract to stay at the Vicente Calderon until 2020, and he revealed that trusted assistant German Burgos and highly-regarded physical trainer Oscar Ortega are also close to penning new deals.

Two more men who appear to have long-term futures with Los Rojiblancos are Toby Alderweireld and Oliver Torres, who are currently enjoying impressive seasons away on loan at Southampton and Porto respectively.

The club’s sporting director Jose Luis Perez Caminero confirmed Atletico are intending to recall both players into the first-team squad next season.

Centre-back or left-back Alderweireld has played a crucial role in Southampton’s unexpected challenge for a top four spot in the Premier League, helping the Saints to the English top flight’s best defensive record.

Creative midfielder Torres, long regarded as one of Spain’s hottest young prospects, has played a key role in Porto’s surge to the Champions League quarterfinals despite only celebrating his 20th birthday in November.

But Caminero has scupper any hopes Porto or Southampton may have held over striking permanent deals, adding: “We are counting on them here for the next campaign.”

Cordoba have major selection problems after finishing their last game – a 3-1 loss at Real Sociedad – with just eight men after three players were shown red cards.

Inigo Lopez, Dani Pinillos and Aleksander Pantic will all be suspended today, adding to the problems for boss Jose Romero as he seeks to end a run of nine straight losses for the bottom-placed side.

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