Speaking ahead of his team’s visit to the Camp Nou on Wednesday night (10.00pm CET) Atlético Madrid manager Diego Simeone only had good words to say about FC Barcelona. "They still play brilliant football” he told the media. “They have the most decisive players both individually and as a unit, and that puts them in an incredible position. They won everything apart from the Champions League last season.”
Despite knocking the Catalans out of the Europe twice in three years, Simeone has never seen his side win at Camp Nou. And he has no hard feelings about that record. “Every game we lost, it was because Barcelona deserved to win” he says.
“And when we drew it’s because we deserved to draw. But we never deserved to win on the basis of the 90 minutes. Maybe early on in some Champions League games, when we scored first, but not 90 minutes. They were better and deserved to win.”
And as for tomorrow’s latest instalment in the saga, the Argentinian observes that "more than in midfield, the game will be decided in the areas. They have tremendous strength in attack but if we defend well, then we’ll have a chance.”
As for who will be joining in-form Griezmann in his own frontline, Simeone was offering no clues. "It’ll be Torres, Correa or Gameiro" he said, naming all of his main strikers!
He was also asked to comment on Arda Turan, his former charge who is now on Barça’s books, responding that “we will always maintain the same opinion that we had of him until the last day that he was here – a wonderful opinion.”
Pushing the 'big two'
Finally, El Cholo was asked to generalise about where his own team currently stand in comparison to Barça and Real Madrid in the Spanish footballing hierarchy. “Our target is not to get closer to any other team” he insisted. “Just to try to improve as much as we feel is necessary. The new players give us new options in midfield and attack, because they offer different characteristics."
"With the squad we’ve put together we can continue to improve. But we need to show that in actions. Not words. And we’ll do that by worrying about ourselves and not what other teams are doing.”