Diego Simeone has one of the few feats to elude his hugely successful spell in charge of Atletico Madrid in his sights on Wednesday by claiming a first win in nine attempts at Barcelona’s Camp Nou.
Simeone’s biggest achievement as Atletico boss came in winning La Liga at Camp Nou with a 1-1 draw in 2014, but despite also dumping Barca out of the Champions League in two of the last three seasons, the Argentine has yet to taste victory in the Catalan capital.
“In almost all the games that we haven’t been able to win it has been due to the merit of Barcelona. We have drawn a few games, but possibly we have never deserved to win based on the 90 minutes.”
Atletico went ahead in both meetings between the sides at the Camp Nou last season before their quest was undone by early red cards for Filipe Luis and Diego Godin in a 2-1 La Liga defeat in January and for Fernando Torres as Barca won by the same score in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal in April.
Barca’s deadly front three of Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Neymar have proven too hot even for Atletico’s watertight defence to handle, and Simeone insisted that Barca remain the best team in Spain despite trailing early La Liga leaders Real Madrid by three points.
“The truth is yes (Barca are the best team). They continue to play brilliant football and have the players that most make the difference individually and collectively. Despite the fact they didn’t win the Champions League last year, that puts them in an incredible place.”
However, Atletico can call on an in-form, superstar forward of their own in Antoine Griezmann.
Euro 2016’s top scorer has scored four times in his last two La Liga games as Atletico have bounced back from draws against Alaves and Leganes to open their league campaign, allowing them to thrash Celta Vigo and Sporting Gijon.
And Simeone backed a campaign led by French sports daily L’Equipe on Tuesday for Griezmann to end Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo’s dominance of the Ballon d’Or for the past eight years.
“Hopefully Antoine will be there because last year he had an enormous season. He has started strongly again this year,” added Simeone.
“The other day he played as a second striker and ended up defending like a second defensive midfielder.
“He is a player that offers us that option and hopefully he maintains that ambition that allows him to aspire to more every day.”