MADRID (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid’s recent struggles are providing their coach Diego Simeone with extra motivation as he prepares to revive the their La Liga title challenge in the new year.
Simeone’s side are sixth in La Liga, nine points adrift of leaders Real Madrid who have a game in hand.
”We need to improve,“ Simeone told a news conference on Monday. ”We don’t have the consistency we had wanted to have in La Liga but this drives me.
“When faced by adversity, I feel much more involved, more in my habitat. I love challenges.”
Atletico had lost four of their last six league games - their worst since he took over in 2011 - before Saturday’s 1-0 home win over Las Palmas.
”What matters is today,“ Simeone said. ”Destiny is what we want to make of it, with work, with perseverance and with an incredible willpower.
“We need to continue to improve and compete and after five years in the same club, it’s not easy.”
Spanish champions in the 2013-14 campaign, Atletico finished third in La Liga last season and reached the Champions League final for the second time in three years, only to lose again to city rivals Real.
They will face Bayer Leverskusen in the last 16 of Europe’s elite club competition in February.
“I hope that next year we are able to prove to have the same energy and strength to compete until the end for everything,” Simeone said.
”I always think about the positive things and 2016 was an important year for the club.
“You can win or lose but the important thing is the emotions you transmit to the fans and I think we have achieved that.”
Atletico have had the best defensive record in La Liga in three of the last four seasons.
They host Guijuelo in the King’s Cup round-of-32 second leg on Tuesday in their final game of the year holding a 6-0 advantage.
Reporting by Adriana Garcia, editing by Ed Osmond