Koke challenges Atletico Madrid to make a strong start when La Liga’s coronavirus hiatus ends

As Atleti prepare to return to training, their skipper discussed the need to be ready for a resumption to the season

Atletico Madrid captain Koke has urged his team to hit the ground running when the La Liga season resumes, meaning they will have to quickly get used to playing behind closed doors.

On Monday it was announced top-flight clubs in Spain can go back to training this week for individual sessions as part of a staggered return following the coronavirus pandemic.

The season has been on hold since early March, though the target is for fixtures to be played again in June. La Liga chief Javier Tebas has said “the return of football is a sign that society is progressing to the new normal” following the impact of Covid-19 on the country.

Atletico last played on March 11, when they triumphed 3-2 at Anfield to knock holders Liverpool out of the Champions League, with Koke hoping they can quickly get up to speed again.

“We are preparing at home trying not to lose too much intensity, or too much strength,” the Atleti captain said in a media conference staged by the club. “What we will lose the most is the work with the ball. 

“When we start individual training and then with the rest of the group we will be taking it little by little. 

“It is a mini-season after we’ve come from competing at the highest level in Liverpool. We have to prepare in the best way and not think that it is a pre-season.

“This has been a break to start strong for the remainder of the season.”

Atleti face a battle to secure a top-four finish this season; they sit in sixth place in the table, albeit only a point behind fourth-placed Real Sociedad with 11 rounds remaining in the 2019-20 campaign.

However, with games set to be staged behind closed doors, Diego Simeone’s squad will not have the added bonus of their fans being present inside the Wanda Metropolitano – something Koke admitted will be “odd”.

“It seems that we are going to play without an audience,” the Spain international said.

“Playing at home without our people is going to be odd because they are always supportive, especially in the most difficult moments. 

“Hopefully it will be as short [a time] as possible [without them] and wherever they are, we will feel your support.”