Diego Costa's eight-game ban for his outburst at referee Jesus Gil Manzano is "too much", according to Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone.
The Spain international was dismissed during the first half of his side's 2-0 defeat to Barcelona last Saturday and the official wrote in his post-match report that Costa had insulted his mother and, after being shown a red card, grabbed his arm to try to stop him from booking Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez.
It was confirmed on Thursday Costa had been suspended for eight games and would consequently miss the rest of the season, though Atletico was given 10 working days to lodge an appeal.
Simeone believes the punishment is excessive and says the club will do everything it can to support Costa.
"The sanction is too much," he told a media conference ahead of Atleti's LaLiga clash with Celta Vigo on Saturday. "The club will defend him as he continues to prepare for next season. Hopefully he returns to the level we need.
"You know what I think of Costa. We must take care of our players and, at this moment, more than ever with Costa."
The former Chelsea striker has endured a difficult season, scoring just five goals in 21 appearances across all competitions.
However, Simeone defended the 30-year-old, insisting that injuries have been responsible for his struggles.
"He started very well after a great pre-season," the Argentinian said.
"In September and October, he began to feel discomfort but we asked him to play in Girona although he was not in the right condition.
"Hopefully now he can have a fantastic pre-season and can respond as we are used to."
Atleti is 11 points behind LaLiga leader Barca with seven games remaining and Simeone conceded this season has been a challenging one.
"To be honest, it has been a tough year," he added. "Everything has been hard since the beginning and we have to keep going, no doubts.
"It is a good time to see where people are. I am speaking about players, the board, technical staff and fans. It is the time to evaluate where we are."
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