Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone shares Jose Mourinho’s belief that winning is all that matters as the Spanish leaders bid to eliminate Chelsea from the Champions League.
Following a goalless draw in the first leg at the Vicente Calderon Stadium last Tuesday and Sunday’s win at Premier League leaders’ Liverpool, Mourinho’s defensive tactics were questioned.
Simeone did not add to the criticism, instead admitting to respecting a well-organized team such as Mourinho’s.
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"I’m a football man, I respect different ways of setting out your team," Simeone said. You can play 10 at the back or you can play 10 at the front. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the result. It depends what you believe is the convenient way of playing and who you’re playing against.
"To defend well is not easy, so you have to congratulate a team that defends well. To attack well is not easy either, so you have to congratulate also a team that goes on the attack. It’s important that, regardless of how you play, that the team wins, that the club wins, that the institution as a whole wins.
"There is not one way of playing football. If we all played the same way it would be very boring."
Atletico are on the verge of an historic season which could finish with the La Liga title and a Champions League final in Lisbon on May 24, with Simeone responsible for much of the progress the club has made in his two-and-a-half years as boss.
"I’m not thinking about what we’ve achieved," Simeone said. "I’m not focusing on where we are at the moment, I’m just focusing on keeping on moving forward. I’m not comparing Chelsea, a team that won the Champions League two years ago, with Atletico Madrid. In the end the best team will win and I believe with our hard work, I believe we can do well and maybe try to get a positive result."
Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is set to play at Stamford Bridge for first time as a Chelsea player.
The Belgium goalkeeper joined the Blues from Genk but has spent three years on loan in Madrid.
Courtois has become one of the most sought-after goalkeepers in Europe during his time at Atletico and has been backed by Simeone to handle the pressure.
Simeone added: "I think he’ll be able to handle the pressure without any problem. He’s working hard to compete, to be one of the best goalkeepers at the moment. So far, he’s still a very young player. He’s still a player that’s growing. He still needs the time to mature and to grow."
Courtois is Petr Cech’s likely long-term successor.
Mourinho stoked intrigue prior to the game by sending Cech out to training, despite the Czech goalkeeper dislocating a shoulder in the first leg.
Simeone, who crossed swords with Mourinho while the Portuguese was Real Madrid boss, was asked about his rival’s media tactics, with Cech’s training session anticipated to be a diversion.
"I did not see any mind games," Simeone said of Mourinho’s time in Spain.
The former Argentina midfielder respects Mourinho and Chelsea and knows his team face a challenge to advance to the final on Wednesday.
He said: "The confidence is always there, especially in the semi-finals of a Champions League game. It’s clear my players are very keen, they’re very excited. We know it’s going to be a difficult game and they’re going to have to put in an enormous effort to try to get a positive result."
Tiago could feature against his former club, where he played under Mourinho for one season until 2005, on what could be a memorable personal occasion.
The Portugal midfielder said: "It’s clear that I had a great year here, it was unforgettable. I would affirm it is a special game for me, but it’s the semi-final of the Champions League. The final in Lisbon is very near, but I’m not getting distracted. We’re focusing, it’s going to be a very difficult game.
"If I do get a chance to play I’ll do my best and if we all do our best as a team we’ll have a chance to get to the final in Lisbon."