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Simeone believes Atleti are prepared for their latest challenge

Diego Simeone believes Atletico Madrid’s consistency and ability to accept new challenges will benefit the team during the knockout stages of the European tournament, speaking ahead of his side’s Champions League Round of 16 encounter against Bayer Leverkusen,

Simeone has always preached to his players to play every match like it is a cup final, and the Argentine has not wavered from his philosophy and his team continually reflect that ideology on the pitch.

“I think the team are doing well, the group is very enthusiastic,” the manager said during his pre-match press conference. The Celta Vigo match was not good (a 2-0 loss two weeks ago), but we were consistent before and since, which is important.”

“The demands are increasing with each passing day and there’s less room for error.

“Results decide your place in the table, but once a match starts, nobody is the favorite over anyone else, especially in the knockout rounds. It depends on how you respond in the match.

“History is a beautiful thing, but games aren’t won in books.”

Atletico fans are reveling in the fact respect for their beloved team has steadily grown around Europe with each performance, and are hoping the club can return to the Champions League final to avenge last season’s heartbreaking defeat to Real Madrid.

But Simeone is not concerned with the perception of his team. The manager is simply focused on the task at hand – and that is getting past his Bundesliga opponent on Wednesday night.

“Leverkusen have a good coach and good players,” Simeone added. “They’re a well-balanced team.”

“Keeping the ball is going to be very important. If we take to the pitch knowing what sort of game we have to play, it’s more likely that we’ll be able to play the match on our terms.”

“It’s always important to show respect to your opponents. I don’t know if teams give us more respect now just because we’ve done well in the past. There may be more attractive opponents than us, who you would rather face, but we’re here.”

“I don’t think we’re the favorites in this tie. It starts 0-0 so anything is possible.

Simeone is expected to start Antoine Griezmann and Mario Mandzukic in Atletico’s starting eleven, with striker Fernando Torres waiting until the second half tonight’s contest to make his Champions League debut for his boyhood club.

The manager is also waiting on a late fitness test for influential midfielder Arda Turan (bruised right thigh), but Simeone is confident of his side’s chances this evening with or without the Turkey international.

“Let’s hope Arda is fit,” Simeone concluded. “If he plays we’ll have a certain idea, and if he doesn’t, we’ll have another one.”

Programming note: Bayer Leverkusen vs. Atletico Madrid will be shown LIVE today at 2:45pm EST on FOX Sports 2 and Fox Soccer 2Go. Sign up today for the free 7-day trial to Fox Soccer 2Go.


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