Diego Simeone reiterated his surprise after Antoine Griezmann was used sparingly by Barcelona against Atletico Madrid, but suggested the forward still had time to make an impact.
Griezmann was introduced in the 90th minute of Tuesday’s 2-2 draw against his former club at Camp Nou and registered just six touches of the ball.
The France international has been a sub in three of Barca’s last four games and has been linked with a move away at the end of the season, just a year after arriving from Atleti in a €120m transfer.
Simeone said after the game he was lost for words at Griezmann’s struggles at Camp Nou but, speaking at a news conference on Thursday, he refused to criticise the 29-year-old for swapping clubs.
“I don’t want to be disrespectful,” he said. “At the moment we are playing a lot in this season finale and that point is not important for us today.”
Asked for his opinion on the substitution, Simeone said: “I am without words. Speechless.
“I don’t drive a truck, I drive a team of footballers who work for a major club like Atleti.
“In our team, three minutes can be decisive. We lost a Champions League final in the space of three minutes and for me they are very important.”
Atletico’s away draw with reigning champions Barca made it 13 games without defeat in all competitions, including a 4-2 aggregate win over Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League.
Simeone credits the victory at Anfield prior to the suspension of football due to coronavirus as the key to his side’s recent resurgence in LaLiga, with four wins and two draws since the restart lifting Atleti into third place ahead of Friday’s clash with Real Mallorca.
“We played a great match against Liverpool with a result that we knew was going to give us a major boost in LaLiga,” he said.
“In LaLiga you are awarded for consistency. It is not over yet, but we know the Liverpool result was important for us before the break.
“The players trained well at home and we returned as we wanted. The group is good, with good relationships between the players.
“We have to continue improving and achieve our objective against Mallorca. Hopefully we can finish as high as possible in the league.”