Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone said midweek effort in the Champions League defeat to Chelsea contributed to his side’s lethargic display in Saturday evening’s uneventful goalless La Liga draw at Leganes.
In a scrappy game of few clear chances, Atletico edged the first half and came closest with a Saul Niguez 20-yarder pushed away by home goalkeeper Ivan Cuellar. After the break, Leganes were on top and visiting goalkeeper Jan Oblak saved twice from substitute Nabil El-Zhar.
The Rojiblanco coach told the postgame news conference at Butarque that his team might have taken control early on, but as the game wore on tiredness from their recent exertions took a toll.
“After the effort we made Wednesday the game was going to be conditioned by the first 20-25 minutes,” Simeone said. “We had chances early on, but they defended very well with many players.
“We made a big effort against Chelsea, and it is not easy to keep putting in such efforts. We got a point, which is disappointing, but we must keep working.”
Atletico’s usual attacking star Antoine Griezmann was substituted midway through the second half, with full-back Sime Vrsaljko sent on in a tactical switch which moved Saul up front alongside another sub Fernando Torres.
“I read the game the way I read it,” Simeone said. “We needed more fresh legs up front. We have got used to Griezmann always solving problems for us up front. When he does not score it is obviously more difficult. But we need to be closer to goal, to make chances, and this is not just down to Griezmann.”
Simeone said that considering all the challenges his side had faced recently he was relatively happy with how they were positioned heading into the international break.
“We have had a lot of games recently, and tried to rotate and give people chances,” he said. “They are humans who must keep running, and it is not easy to be at 100 percent in all games.
“I am happy with the team, they keep fighting, despite all the difficulties — many games away from home, and our new stadium which we still need to get used to. So we are going very well.”
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