Praise will not go to our heads, says Atletico coach Simeone

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Football Soccer - Atletico Madrid v Athletic Bilbao - Spanish Liga BBVA - Vicente Calderon stadium, Madrid, Spain - 13/12/15 Atletico Madrid players celebrate Antoine Griezmann's goal. REUTERS/Andrea Comas

MADRID (Reuters) – Atletico Madrid’s players will not allow praise to go to their heads even though they are level on points with Barcelona at the top of La Liga, coach Diego Simeone said on Wednesday.

“When people talk well of your work it is good to help you keep improving,” Simeone told a news conference. “When you get too much praise then you can start to think that it all happens naturally but it isn’t like that. It is down to work and we realise that.

“When you are sure of yourself you are not nervous about a criticism or a comment. Everything is logical. When we were playing badly there was criticism and now there is praise. It is important for us continue with our work.”

Simeone’s side broke the stranglehold of Barca and Real Madrid at home by winning the championship in 2014, as well as reaching the Champions League final where they were beaten by Real.

This season they look strong again in all three competitions.

Atletico lie level with Barca on 35 points in La Liga, with Real five points off the pace, they are in the knockout stage of the Champions League and face lower-league Reus on Thursday aiming to book a place in the last 16 of the King’s Cup.

“We have been on the same lines for the last four-and-a-half years and we are not going to change,” Simeone said.

“We aim to improve each year. We are aware of who we are, what we are looking for and which way to go.”

Atletico’s success has come through a solid base and hard work but they have also benefited from more attacking options this season after plenty of investment.

Yannick Carrasco, Angel Correa and Luciano Vietto are young players who have come in and done well but the team still need more from Jackson Martinez who has struggled to live up to his 35-million-euro ($38.31-million) price tag.

“The team is growing and it is good to have the respect of rivals and public opinion which makes us happy,” Simeone said.

(Reporting by Tim Hanlon in Barcelona, editing by Clare Fallon)

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