Simeone issues Atleti rallying cry ahead of crunch Arsenal clash

Atletico Madrid scrapped to an ugly win at Deportivo Alaves, and Diego Simeone is already looking ahead to Arsenal in the Europa League.

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone   -  Getty Images

Diego Simeone called on Atletico Madrid to be "all together" ahead of the Europa League semi-final second leg with Arsenal, and felt his rotations in the win over Deportivo Alaves were justified.

Atleti laboured to a 1-0 victory at the Mendizorroza, where Kevin Gameiro scored a second-half penalty after Fernando Torres had already seen a spot-kick saved.

It was a result that meant Atleti remain mathematically in LaLiga's title race, at least until runaway leaders Barcelona play Deportivo La Coruna later on Sunday - a match in which they only need a point to clinch the league.

But for Simeone the focus is undoubtedly on the return leg with Arsenal in a tie that is locked at 1-1, with the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Saul Niguez and Jan Oblak having sat out the trip to Alaves.

And Simeone issued a rallying cry for that fixture at the Wanda Metropolitano.

"[It's an] exciting game," he told reporters. "Now we have to rest well and then to work and be all together on Thursday."

On stretching the gap in second over rivals Real Madrid, who have a game in hand, to four points, Simeone added: "It was a tough opponent, it's difficult to win here and it's a victory we needed."

Simeone was also quizzed about his squad rotation, saying: "We came from a big effort and some of my players were not in a position to play a game as hard as this one."

He added at a news conference: "The reality is they are footballers. We have several players that can occupy different positions. They allow you to do it."  

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