Diego Simeone speaks at a news conference. AFP PHOTO - ROSLAN RAHMANROSLAN RAHMAN-AFP-Getty Images
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Diego Simeone insists it is not a failure for Atletico Madrid to finish second in La Liga while competing with Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Atletico have proven to be the strongest challengers to Barcelona’s title defence this season, but Ernesto Valverde’s men are on the brink of retaining their crown.

However, Simeone’s side do boast a six-point gap over capital rivals Real, with Los Blancos having slipped up against Champions League hopefuls Getafe on Thursday.

And Simeone shrugged off the suggestion that his side, who were knocked out of the Champions League by Juventus in the last 16, have had a disappointing campaign.

“I was asked whether it is frustrating to finish second in La Liga, with Barcelona and Real Madrid, the best teams in the world,” he said ahead of Atletico’s game with Real Valladolid on Saturday.

“I don’t think it’s frustrating or a failure. We only think about ourselves, where we’re coming from and where we’re going.

“We have to strive to be competitive. In these seven and a half years we’ve always tried to be closer to the top.

“I demand a lot and we look to improve, but I’m glad that Atleti are expected to be among the best every year. That speaks very well of the work that the club are doing, as well as the work from the players that have been here all those years.

“Now we have the responsibility to stay at this level, waiting for Real Madrid and Barcelona to have not a great season, but that is very difficult.”

Atletico head into Saturday’s fixture at Wanda Metropolitano having won five of their last six league outings, with their only defeat in that run coming against Barca – a result which all but ended their title challenge.

Simeone has highlighted how vital forward Antoine Griezmann is to the club as they look to challenge the supremacy of Barcelona at the top of La Liga next season.

The French forward has been linked with a move to Camp Nou, but Simeone wants him to stay for next season’s title tilt.

“A very important player for the present and future of the club and the team,” Simeone said.

“He is one of the captains and we hope that next season he will have an intense season like now.”

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