Simeone defends decision to start Gelson ahead of Kalinic

Gelson Martins led Atletico Madrid's line instead of Nikola Kalinic against Leganes, and Diego Simeone defended that choice.

Atletico Madrid winger Gelson Martins   -  Getty Images

Diego Simeone defended his decision to start winger Gelson Martins in a central role ahead of natural striker Nikola Kalinic in Atletico Madrid's unimpressive 1-1 draw at Leganes.

With Diego Costa missing due to a muscular injury, Simeone sprung something of a surprise by opting to play Gelson – a pre-season arrival from Sporting CP – through the middle alongside Antoine Griezmann.

That left Kalinic – who started against Sant Andreu in the Copa del Rey on Tuesday – on the bench and he was only deployed in the final two minutes as Atletico chased a late winner.

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Croatia international Kalinic has made just two LaLiga starts since joining from AC Milan and is yet to score, but Simeone insists that the decision to play Gelson was a sound tactical move. "In the first half we didn't play how we wanted to, but we did in the second half," said Simeone.

"I think that the second half represented the game we wanted to play. We wanted to have players on the pitch who could dribble. Gelson had played well and scored a goal in the Copa del Rey. We have a lot of confidence in our players, and they know it and are ready to play."

Simeone's advice to Kalinic if he wants more playing time was simple. "[He needs] to work. We trust everyone. Today he played two minutes, at Atletico two minutes are a lot. He played the other day, while Gelson had a good game in the Copa. I'm happy with the second half," he said.

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