MADRID — Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone admitted his team were still finding their feet for the upcoming campaign, after they lost 1-0 to Inter Milan at the Wanda Metropolitano in Saturday evening’s International Champions Cup.
Inter scored the only goal midway through the first half with a superb flying volley from former Atletico target Lautaro Martinez, and the home side did not have any effort on target until the 88th minute when substitute Vitolo’s header was well saved by Inter keeper Samir Handanovic.
The Rojiblanco coach told the postgame news conference that his team’s ICC games against Arsenal, PSG and Inter had been particularly useful preparation for Wednesday’s UEFA Super Cup against city rivals Real Madrid.
“This serves for our preparation, for our players to get some playing time and to prepare in the best way for Wednesday,” Simeone said. “This tournament is very interesting as you are facing very strong clubs and institutions, at the top level. That is healthy for us.
“It is a pity the World Cup meant we could not have players at their top version, as some have played not so much. It was an interesting game, with both teams having many chances.
“There are things to improve, our pressing for example, but it was a good game, could have had many more goals than the 1-0.”
Thomas Lemar, Atletico’s €70 million summer signing, got a first start in front of his new team’s fans and impressed from a right-sided midfield role, while new Portugal international winger also showed some zip during his run into the second half.
“We have a new group, with many players who have just arrived and need to adapt,” Simeone said. “That will take time. It is not enough to just have good individuals, you need to form a team, and we still have to see that.
“Lemar is bit by bit picking up what the team needs. You see his dynamism, explosiveness, his talent which the team needs. Gelson did well with his speed and intensity on the right wing.”
World Cup winners Antoine Griezmann and Lucas Hernandez got warm welcomes in their first appearances since this summer’s tournament in Russia — although Simeone suggested their lack of playing time so far this preseason could count against them starting against Madrid midweek.
“They both played very well, Lucas with a bit more intensity as he has that in his play,” he said. “Antoine trying to read the game as best he could.”
Asked about former Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois having announced himself as a boyhood Real Madrid fan during his presentation at the Bernabeu midweek, Simeone said he had full respect for a player who had done very well during their time together.
“[Courtois] played for us and did very well,” the Argentine said. “Everyone has the right to their own thoughts, and we must respect that. I always have good memories of those players who did well for us, that will not change, no matter what rivalry we [later] have professionally.”