La Liga champion Atletico Madrid has had an inconsistent season so far but is finally showing some fighting spirit as it prepares to host Manchester United in its Champions League last 16 first leg on Wednesday, coach Diego Simeone has said.
Atletico has struggled domestically as it sits fifth in the La Liga standings but put in an emphatic performance when it beat Osasuna 3-0 at the weekend, giving it the perfect preparation for Wednesday’s match against United.
“I cling to the growth that I see happening daily,” Simeone told news conference on Tuesday.
“I see their (players) search for our team spirit, like we saw the other day in the 3-0 win at Osasuna. Hopefully against Manchester United we have that spirit because that’s how we compete very well.”
Atletico was eliminated at this stage of the competition last season by eventual champion Chelsea and Simeone is predicting another tricky encounter against United, now managed by German Ralf Rangnick.
“We need to find our balance,” Simeone said. “We will face one of the best teams in the world that, since the arrival of their new coach, are showing solidity and commitment, like how Manchester have always been. They have evolved a lot since his arrival.”
The Argentine coach received a blow earlier on in the day with the news that he will be without midfielder and captain Koke who was ruled out with a thigh muscle injury.
“[Thomas] Lemar is also not 100 percent after coming back from COVID-19, [Yannick] Carrasco is suspended, now Koke is also out,” Simeone said.
“It’s a big blow but we have a group of players who are hungry to play and show what they are worth.”
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