Griezmann in top form ahead of decisive Barcelona match
MADRID (AP) — Antoine Griezmann is giving Atletico Madrid fans hope that a late run for the title is still possible.
The France forward is peaking at the best possible moment, just before the decisive match against Spanish league leader Barcelona.
Griezmann will enter Sunday’s game at Camp Nou boosted by two outstanding performances in the last two league games. He had a hat trick against Sevilla last Sunday and scored four goals against Leganes on Wednesday.
“He is extraordinary and has shown that many other times,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. “He makes a difference. The team has been playing well so it can help him perform at this level.”
A win by Atletico this weekend would cut Barcelona’s lead to two points entering the final stretch of games. Atletico is five points behind the Catalan club, which drew at Las Palmas 1-1 on Thursday.
Barcelona was 11 points ahead of Atletico a few weeks ago, but Simeone’s team has been thriving. It has won eight straight games in all competitions, including six in a row in the league. Its last league loss was last year.
“We are going through a great moment,” Simeone said. “But we go to Barcelona knowing that we will be facing the best team.”
Another stellar performance by Griezmann would come in handy for Atletico.
Griezmann has 12 goals in his last nine matches in all competitions. With his goals in the 4-0 win against Leganes on Wednesday, he took his league tally to 15, surpassing Cristiano Ronaldo for fourth in the scoring chart behind Iago Aspas, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi, who has 23.
Griezmann’s recent performances have put him on good terms with Atletico fans who jeered him after his struggles earlier this season.
Griezmann publicly criticized the fans, igniting rumors that he could be looking for a way out of the club. There were reports he received many offers to leave Atletico in the most recent transfer window, including from Barcelona.
“I’m trying to make the fans happy,” he said after the Leganes match. “Maybe I made a few mistakes (with my attitude toward the fans), but I haven’t been wrong on the field. Now we are enjoying this good moment together and hopefully it will continue like this until the end.”
Simeone recently said Atletico fans should do everything possible to try to keep Griezmann in the club for as long as possible.
The Frenchman received a standing ovation by the crowd at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium when he was substituted in the second half against Leganes.
Griezmann, who has yet to score at Camp Nou with Atletico, said he has no immediate plans of leaving.
“I’m very happy here, and so is my family, and in the end that’s the most important thing,” he said. “I’m still improving in football and I still have a lot to learn from (Simeone) and from my teammates.”
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