By Tim Hanlon
Atletico Madrid striker Fernando Torres believes coach Diego Simeone’s clear understanding of the team’s weaknesses has been the key to their success as they seek revenge against Real Madrid on Tuesday for last season’s Champions League final defeat.
With the determined Argentine at the helm, Atletico have belied their economic inferiority to become one of the most dangerous sides in Europe and now the La Liga champions take on Real aiming once again for a place in the semi-finals of the continent’s elite competition.
In the past Atletico were accustomed to being swept aside by the footballing aristocrats, who claimed their 10th European crown against them in Lisbon, but now they are more than capable of trading blows.
In fact since that final, when Atletico were agonisingly close to a victory before a Sergio Ramos header forced extra-time and then Real ran away with the match, Simeone’s side has had the upper hand in the Madrid clashes.
Atletico beat Real to win the season’s Super Cup curtain-raiser, knocked them out of the King’s Cup and defeated them in both La Liga clashes. The manner of their 4-0 demolition of Real in February’s league meeting even led to questions about the future of coach Carlo Ancelotti.
“It is his character as a player and his character as a coach that drives the team,” Torres told UEFA.com of Simeone ahead of Tuesday’s home quarter-final first leg.
“He knows we are a team that needs to know what we are about, our weaknesses and our strengths, but above all our weaknesses so we can then implement our qualities.
“We don’t have the options that Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich or Chelsea have, we cannot drop points and make up for them later. We are a team that plays at our limit.”
The pressure is very much on Ancelotti going into the game with Real having surrendered their La Liga lead and dropping two points behind Barcelona.
Even so there are positive signs with the team finding its form in recent weeks following the return of Luka Modric and James Rodriguez from injury.
Cristiano Ronaldo is also firing on all cylinders with eight goals from four games.
“Ronaldo is able to take advantage because we are now playing with more speed and this gives him space in front of goal,” Ancelotti told a news conference.
“This intensity will be one of the important factors against Atletico.”