Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone said his team were facing “one of the two best teams in the world” in reaction to being drawn against Barcelona in this season’s Copa del Rey semifinals.
Atletico host Barcelona at the Calderon in next Wednesday’s first leg, with the return at the Camp Nou the following Tuesday.
The tie brings back memories of the clubs’ recent meetings in the knockout stages of the Champions League, with Simeone’s side emerging victorious on both occasions, although then being beaten by neighbours Real Madrid in the final each year.
Atletico won the 2013 Copa del Rey, beating Madrid at the Bernabeu in the decider, and the coach told a news conference that it was normal for his side to have to find a way past either of La Liga’s big two to have a chance to win anything.
“We know that for us to win a competition we always need to get past Real Madrid or Barcelona,” Simeone said. “They are the two best teams in the world, and you are going to meet them in all competitions.
“So it is something normal for us during these five years at the club. You have to get past them to lift any trophy.”
Simeone was speaking ahead of Saturday afternoon’s La Liga game at Alaves, where his team are looking for three points to move up to fourth spot in the table ahead of Real Sociedad, who are at the Bernabeu on Sunday evening.
Alaves, who are in 12th place, drew 1-1 at the Calderon back in August, and their excellent away record this season also includes a win at Barcelona, however the counter-attacking Basque side have won just twice in front of their own fans so far on their return to the top flight.
“Alaves are doing very, very good work,” Simeone said. “They know what they want, they have very fast players up front, they are well organised at set-pieces, they can do you damage out wide.”
The game should see Atletico face their own teenage defender Theo Hernandez, who is on loan at Alaves for the season, and has impressed hugely with his barnstorming runs up and down the flank.
“Theo is doing very well, above all in attack,” he said. “I have not seen him in all the games, but now we will play against him. He is growing in the way he showed when he started coming to train with us.
“Playing games helps kids to grow up. We saw that before with Saul at Rayo Vallecano. It is about picking up experience. Theo is doing that and we are very happy with how it is going for him.”
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