Ancelotti is a key figure for Madrid – Simeone

The Argentine has defended his under-fire counterpart and urged his own players to fight every step of the way against Barcelona

Real Madrid would lose “a key figure” if they opted to sack Carlo Ancelotti, according to Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone.

With Madrid having exited the Champions League to Juventus and with the Liga title seemingly destined for Barcelona, the future of the Italian boss has become the subject of intense speculation.

Simeone, however, says the under-fire Ancelotti is the right man to handle the Madrid dressing-room and thinks it would be a mistake to replace him.

“He is a marvellous coach and manager of groups. If they let him go, they will lose a key figure,” he told a press conference.

Simeone’s side can secure third spot in the table by matching Valencia’s result at Celta Vigo, but visitors Barcelona know that a win – or defeat for Madrid – would see them clinch the title.

The Argentine coach admits that plenty of fans would doubtless be happy to see their city rivals denied the trophy but has urged his own players to fight every step of the way against the Champions League finalists.

“What worries me is that Barcelona are a very good team,” Simeone said. “So good that I wouldn’t know where to start praising them. There are so many things I could say about them, but I better be quiet.

“But we can’t think about that. We have to play every second as if it were the last.

“It’s best not to think; it’s best to play every second like it was the last. If you think, you lose focus. My message to the players is ‘don’t think, just run’.

“We know that it is an important day. Destiny wanted us to meet Barcelona at this time, with the possibility of Barcelona winning the title if Real Madrid lose.

“That way we would all be happy.”

Atleti clinched the title last season with a draw against Barcelona at Camp Nou but Simeone insists securing third spot this term would be a success.

“The goal is to get where we wanted to get at the start of the season – third. We have an opportunity to get closer to that goal,” he said.