Thursday February 13 2014
Simeone: Atleti expect tough Milan

Diego Simeone says Atletico Madrid may be fatigued, as he ponders the dangers Milan represent in the Champions League.

Next midweek will see the former Inter and Lazio midfielder return to San Siro as Coach with Los Colchoneros for the first leg of the Champions League Last 16, to face the Rossoneri.

“Yes it is something I like very much,” Simeone has considered in conversation with the Gazzetta dello Sport.

“It is going to be a beautiful occasion for what I experienced at Inter. Playing at San Siro is always wonderful, even if ‘playing’ is not the right word because now I am a Coach.

“Though, the feelings will be those, it is nice to go back to Milan.”

 Atleti head into the tie with form on the downturn, thanks to three consecutive defeats across League and Cup.

“Is it usual? No, but it happens. Two were in the Copa del Rey against one of the strongest teams in the world.

“Am I concerned? No. Eight days ago we were first in La Liga. All teams sooner or later go through a difficult moment, let’s see how we come out of it.

“If one looks at the 38 weeks of La Liga, it is impossible to think that we can compete with Madrid and Barcelona, impossible. They have a quality that makes a difference in the long run.

“Are we fatigued? Could be. Yet, if we talk of this then continuity was also one of the key factors to finding ourselves in this position.

“Nobody can guarantee that if we had played others then we would be in this position.

“Which is the priority? For me, the life for the fans is La Liga. The Champions League is stupendous, it makes you dream, but La Liga is the daily bread.”

The 43-year-old, who has also coached briefly in Italy with Catania, was asked what sort of Milan he expects to face.

“Milan in the Champions League are much stronger than they are in Serie A. It is a question of the mind, the habit of playing for a big club that always wants to do well in Europe.

“And then, the League and Cup are gone, and so focus remains on the Champions League and there is great respect. It is going to be tough.

“Milan have many champions and should be approached with great humility, knowing that we will not be facing the team in Serie A, but a more aggressive one, with a great desire to do well.

“When we face Milan they will bring out the best in themselves, certainly.”

The Argentine was asked whether he was surprised to see Clarence Seedorf handed the reins at Milan without previous experience.

“All of us one day when we started [had no experience], I do not see anything strange. Early on people talk, wonder, doubt.

“Then, if one wins, then everyone congratulates them and then they say, ‘clearly this one has played, they know’. Let’s say that whatever happens, you journalists will come out alive, us Coaches, less so.

“Seedorf has joined Milan at a particular moment? Yes, but he is very familiar with the club, he had only left ‘home’ recently. Several players were his teammates, which is a bonus for a Coach.”

The tactician was also asked for his opinion of Mario Balotelli.

“Balotelli? A phenomenon. He is someone who can make the leap in quality for his team, a player I like very much, for whom I have great admiration. He is one that can resurrect a dead game.”

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