Des­per­ate hosts look­ing to stage ‘im­pos­si­ble’ turn­around against Real

New Straits Times - - Sport -

MADRID of an away goal which would oblige Atletico to win by four goals to reach the fi­nal.

Real thrashed Granada 4-0 on Satur­day de­spite Zine­dine Zi­dane mak­ing nine changes from the team that beat Atletico so con­vinc­ingly, while Sime­one only rested one player in his side’s 1-0 vic­tory over Eibar.

With Real feel­ing fresher and their con­fi­dence soar­ing as they re­main on track to win the do­mes­tic ti­tle, all signs point to the 11-time Euro­pean cham­pi­ons pil­ing more mis­ery on their neigh­bours who they beat in the 2014 and 2016 fi­nals.

Sime­one, how­ever, of­fered a typ­i­cally de­fi­ant mes­sage ahead of the sec­ond leg, al­lud­ing to his side’s re­mark­able ti­tle win in 2014 and their Cham­pi­ons League suc­cesses over the likes of Barcelona, Chelsea and Bay­ern Mu­nich.

“On Wed­nes­day we have an ex­tremely dif­fi­cult game which for some would be im­pos­si­ble, but not for us,” Sime­one said.

“Af­ter the last game I told the play­ers it was very tough, that we’re fac­ing the best team in the world that score in ev­ery game but we can do it. I’m con­vinced we the past week in the midst of Atletico’s despair.

“We have to do some­thing im­pos­si­ble and be­ing Atletico Madrid we might be ca­pa­ble of it,” he said im­me­di­ately af­ter the first leg.

“I am con­vinced of it,” he re­peated on Satur­day. “If I wasn’t I wouldn’t say it. If we are united and un­der­stand that it is a semi­fi­nal at home we have a chance.”

Atletico’s home record in the Cham­pi­ons League un­der Sime­one does give some small cause for op­ti­mism.

Atletico have won 17 and drawn can, if I wasn’t I wouldn’t say so.”

Cap­tain Gabi, mean­while, is tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from Barcelona’s record-break­ing come­back from a four-goal deficit against Paris St Ger­main this sea­son.

“Of course we can do it, look at Barcelona, and they had an even more dif­fi­cult re­sult,” he said.

“We’re con­vinced we can do it, we’re go­ing to fight for it and if not we can at least go out with our heads held high.”

Real have won only one of their last eight league games against Atletico but have found the magic for­mula against their ri­vals in the Cham­pi­ons League, which winger Lu­cas Vazquez said was due to their his­tory in the com­pe­ti­tion.

“Real Madrid have a spe­cial con­nec­tion with Europe and the fans feel the same way. Play­ing in a Cham­pi­ons League game for Madrid gives you goose­bumps,” he said.

“Ev­ery game against Atletico is dif­fi­cult be­cause they are a great team but we know how to beat them.” Reuters four of their 21 Cham­pi­ons League home games in the past four years, keep­ing 17 clean sheets.

Of those re­sults, though, only those gained against mod­est op­po­nents like Aus­tria Vienna, Olympiakos, Malmo and As­tana would be enough for Atletico to go through.

Most Atletico fans would set­tle just for fi­nally beat­ing Real on a fa­mous last Euro­pean night at the Calderon, even if it doesn’t stop their bit­ter­est ri­vals from mak­ing the fi­nal once more. AFP

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Sime­one (left) and Real Madrid coach Zine­dine Zi­dane.

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