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Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone has confirmed that Diego Costa will start Sunday’s La Liga game at Alaves ahead of the Europa League semifinal second leg against Arsenal on Thursday.
Former Chelsea striker Costa, who is set for a first game since picking up a thigh injury on April 12, scored three times in six games against Arsenal during his time at Stamford Bridge, including the equaliser in last season’s FA Cup final which Arsenal went on to win 2-1.
“I spoke with Costa to see how he was,” Simeone said. “On Thursday I thought [Fernando] Torres was better up front. Tomorrow [Costa] starts the game, and we will see how he feels in the game.”
Simeone also apologised for his sending off against Arsenal. The Argentine was sent to the stands by referee Clement Turpin early in the first leg game at the Emirates, in which his side got a 1-1 draw despite playing 80 minutes with just 10 men.
He could now miss the final as part of a potential five game touchline suspension, should Atletico qualify. The 48-year-old also has a history of losing his temper on the sideline, on occasions as big as the 2014 Champions League final and that year’s Spanish Super Cup.
Speaking at a news conference ahead of Sunday’s trip to midtable Alaves he admitted he had no justification for the insults directed at Turpin on Thursday night.
“I feel bad about the sending off,” Simeone said. “I understand it can happen with how quickly things go on the pitch. I must improve in this respect. If you get sent off you cannot justify your behaviour.”
While Costa will return, some of Atletico’s key players are set to be rested for the trip to the Basque country, but goalkeeper Jan Oblak’s absence from the squad was for fitness reasons, Simeone said.
“We are looking to win the game, to finish as high up the table as possible,” Simeone said. “We will go with the kids who are feeling strongest. [Jose] Gimenez, [Antoine] Griezmann and Saul are not travelling, and neither is Oblak, who has a thigh problem. The rest are all going.”
Simeone has often been linked with other coaching jobs around Europe in recent years, most recently with the vacancy at Arsenal when Arsene Wenger leaves this summer, but he made his commitment to the Atletico cause clear when asked for his feelings about the club he represented twice as a player.
“I do not have space to express the feeling,” he said. “Words cannot express what you feel. When I was a player what I most liked was when I was abroad and people said: ‘There goes Simeone, from Atletico.’ I was not born into this club, but I give everything so that it keeps growing.”
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan