Atletico await Barcelona - Simeone

The Rojiblancos are three points clear of the Catalans - who play on Sunday - ahead of next week's top-of-the-table showdown at the Vicente Calderon
Diego Simeone says Atletico Madrid are awaiting reigning Liga champions Barcelona after edging Malaga 1-0 on Saturday.

After struggling to build a head of steam at La Rosaleda, the Rojiblancos eventually took the lead with 20 minutes left on the clock, Koke pouncing on a loose ball to send them three points clear at the top of La Liga.

With Barca able to overtake them once again though on Sunday with a win over Elche, Simeone is wary of celebrating going clear in the league and instead praised his players for battling for the away win.

"It was a very difficult game, we had to sweat a lot for the win," the Atletico head coach told reporters after the match.

"Barcelona? We will await to see what tomorrow will bring - we have been accustomed [to being level on points] with them. We must take everything day-by-day."

Before Atletico's mouth-watering clash with Barca on January 11, the capital club face Valencia in midweek in the Copa del Rey and Saturday's matchwinner Koke hopes that the team do not lose sight of the clash due to the Barca tie looming.

"We have to think about the Copa del Rey [not Barca] because we have a very tough opponent in Valencia," he said.

"It's going to be very difficult and we'll try to deal with it with everything we have, then whatever happens will happen. It'll be a difficult tie but we will try to get a result.

"It was important to get all three points at Malaga. We knew it would be a very difficult game. They played a great game defensively but, in the end, we managed to win with a most important goal of mine which brought three points home."