While Fernando Torres has previous UEFA Champions League experience with Liverpool and Chelsea – making 53 appearances between both Premier League sides – Wednesday night will be the first time the Spanish forward will step on the European stage as a member of his boyhood club, Atletico Madrid.
Torres began his career with Los Colchoneros making his first team debut in 2001 at the age of seventeen. He would play the next six seasons, becoming captain, playing a total of 244 games and scoring 91 goals before trading the Spanish capital for Merseyside.
During an interview with the Spanish publication MARCA, the Atletico striker revealed his feelings heading into his Champions League debut the club he began his professional career with.
“Playing in the Champions League is another bonus about being back here, as I’ve never played in it for Atletico. I know the competition well. It’s where the best players compete and it’s where you need to be.”
Atletico Madrid were runners-up in last year’s tournament and Torres believes his teammates want to avenge that defeat by reaching this season’s final in Berlin.
Atletico were leading Real Madrid with only seconds remaining in the contest before Sergio Ramos leveled the match in the 93rd minute, thus sending the game into extra time. What ensued was a complete capitulation by the Spanish champions, as their Madrid rivals scored three unanswered goals during the additional period of play.
“Losing a final is really tough, maybe even more so if it’s the Champions League, and definitely even more so because of the way it happened,” Torres added. “My teammates want to avenge what happened in Lisbon and there’s only one way, which is getting there again.”
“People are convinced that we can reach the final once more. That makes you see what the team’s mentality is all about.”
Torres also expressed his happiness towards being reunited with former teammate and current manager, Diego Simeone. The Spanish forward praised the Argentine boss for his commitment to the club as well as the manager’s unique leadership skills
“He’s very similar to what he was like as a teammate, with very clear ideas and messages,” Torres said regarding Simeone. “When someone makes a speech, it’s very important that he believes it, because he knows it’s true and he shows you that, and you see it for yourself. He’s demanding and he’s a winner which is just what a club needs to be able to compete with the giants.”
Simeone is likely to tip Antoine Griezmann and Mario Mandzukic in Wednesday’s starting lineup against Bayer Leverkusen. But it can be expected that Torres will be introduced at some point in the second half of the Champions League first leg.
Programming note: Bayer Leverkusen vs. Atletico Madrid will be shown LIVE on Wednesday at 2:45pm EST on FOX Sports 2 and Fox Soccer 2Go.
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