Diego Simeone hopes Atletico Madrid will keep their heads

Andy West 22/04/2015
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Deep thinker: Diego Simeone is confident he can overcome Madrid tonight.

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone believes composure will be the key to deciding whether his team or Real progress to the Champions League semi-finals.

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The game is sure to be played in a fiery atmosphere, and although Simeone’s side are known for their all-action approach the Argentine believes focus rather than passion will be decisive.

“Games like this bring responsibility, commitment and fear,” he said. “Whoever succeeds in putting those things to one side, and just playing the game, will have the advantage.”

Atletico are unbeaten in three outings at the Bernabeu this season, winning in La Liga and gaining draws in the Spanish Super Cup and the Copa del Rey. 

But Simeone, as is habitual, downplayed his team’s excellent recent record over their more illustrious rivals, pointing to Los Blancos’ strong first-half performance in last week’s goalless first leg as an indication of their superiority.

“Madrid’s intensity was among the best I have seen this season,” he said. “They had link-up play, directness and pace. That’s what you expect from the best team in the world, which is what they are.”

The Atletico boss is sweating on the fitness of frontman Mario Mandzukic, whose physical battle with the Real back four was a notable feature of the first leg.

The Croat has been struggling with an ankle injury for the last few weeks and missed Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Deportivo La Coruna, instead undergoing extensive treatment.

And Simeone admits he has been preparing for the game with the possibility of Mandzukic being unavailable, adding: “We have been working with two groups so we can make changes. Mario has been improving in training and we hope he’ll be fit.

“We could also change during the game. And beyond the chalkboard we have to see how the game unfolds. I can choose whatever suits us best strategically.

“We have a clear idea of how we want to play and hurt them.”

Antoine Griezmann, however, is a certain starter after an explosive run of form, with the French international netting six goals in his last five outings to further strengthen his reputation as one of the best emerging forwards in Europe.

Simeone added: “He has improved a lot and his goals in the league back him up. 

“He’s playing in a different environment, he’s young and he still has to grow and improve.”

Toni Kroos and Koke, meanwhile, exchanged a difference of opinion over Atletico’s wholehearted attitude as they prepare for their midfield showdown.

Madrid’s Kroos is less than impressed by Los Rojiblancos efforts to influence match officials, sending a clear message to German referee Felix Brych as he said: “Atletico are tough. We know how they play and they put a lot of pressure on the referee. But we have to concentrate on ourselves.”

Koke refused to accept those suggestions, however, replying: “There is a lot more to us than that.

“Sometimes you talk to a referee, that’s part of the game. But I don’t think it’s an important part of our identity. We go out onto the pitch and do our jobs.”

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VIDEO: Real must repeat first leg, first half performance against Atletico - Ancelotti

Scott 22/04/2015
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Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti spoke about the finely balanced Champions League tie against Atletico Madrid at a news conference.







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Yaya Toure hints at summer departure

Andy Hampson 22/04/2015
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Discontented: Yaya Toure.

Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has claimed he is open to “new challenges” and will not stay at a club simply to collect wages.

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Reports last week suggested Toure could be part of a summer clear-out at Etihad Stadium as the club look to reshape the squad after an underwhelming season.

That was denied by manager Manuel Pellegrini, who insisted Toure would “continue playing here because he is a very important player”. But Pellegrini did acknowledge Toure’s form this season has been disappointing. 

Now the 31-year-old has given an interview suggesting he could be open to a move.

Toure, who is reportedly City’s highest earner on £220,000 per week (Dh1.2m), told Foot Mercato: “No amount of wages will make me stay at a club if I feel that I no longer belong there or if no challenge exists for me.

“It would be unjust on my part. There comes a moment where numbers don’t stop us, it goes beyond that, even if the English press seem more interested in the numbers than the sport itself.

“For the future, I don’t know more than you do, because I will always go where I am offered new challenges. That is in my nature.”

Despite those remarks, Toure insisted he remained fully committed to City on the field. He added: “When I arrived at City, Pellegrini was not the coach. Just like the players, managers arrive and leave.

“As I have said before, I owe it to the City fans to fight until the end of my career at this club. My decisions will not be affected by changes in management, but more by the challenges that will be offered to me.”

Toure has been linked with Internazionale, whose manager, the former City boss Roberto Mancini, has spoken openly and regularly of his admiration for the player.

Toure says the feeling is mutual. He said: “Mancini is a mentor for me, and a coach out of the ordinary. It is no secret that I loved when he was my boss.”

Toure is one of a number of players to have faced criticism for City’s disappointing campaign. City have collapsed in the Premier League title race – slumping from joint-top in January to fourth.

He said: “When things are not necessarily going well in a club, the key players take the fall. I am not the only one to have been attacked even if there is tendency to be harsher with me.

“Football is my passion, my job and that gives me two good reasons to do as well as I can.”

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