Diego Simeone has praised the effort and work rate of his Atletico Madrid players, but admitted that Diego Costa probably deserved to be sent off during their disappointing 2-0 defeat to Barcelona at Camp Nou.
Heading into the match, Atletico Madrid needed a win to close the gap on league leaders Barcelona to put the pressure on them, however their game plan looked to be in tatters after half an hour with Costa being sent off.
Despite being down to 10 men, Atletico held their own and kept Barcelona out until the 85th minute, before the inevitable happened. Luis Suarez tucked the ball home from 20 yards out with five minute remaining to break the deadlock, before Lionel Messi made sure of the points just one minute later to wrap up a 2-0 win for the home side.
When asked about Costa's direct red card, Simeone claimed (as quoted by Marca) that if he indeed said what the referee claimed, he deserved to be sent off.
"In 11 games we've had seven red cards, so we must be doing something wrong," he claimed.
"I asked the referee and he told me something that Costa tells me he hasn't said. Other players have said things and aren't sent off, but that doesn't justify Diego. If the referee interprets there was an insult, then it's a justified red card. But it's not always the same, it's not always the same."
With Barcelona's lead over Atletico at the top of La Liga now 11 points it looks as though the title race is all-but over, although Simeone will be hoping his men can finish the season strongly.
"The season has not ended in any way," he asserted. "I value that we won the European Super Cup. We'll fight for second place and that's [seen as being] negative. I love it. Don't forget where we are.
"We're in a complicated moment and we knew that. These situations will make us stronger; we have to empower the players we have."
Atletico will next host Celta Vigo at the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday evening and will attempt to salvage some pride by getting a win and hope Barcelona slip up against the league's bottom side SD Huesca.