Simeone: Pressure on Real in final
Diego Simeone says Real Madrid may have more individual quality but he is confident his hardworking Atletico Madrid side can pull off a shock in Friday's Copa del Rey final at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
Atletico have famously gone over 14 years without beating their richer neighbours from the north of the Spanish capital, but the Rojiblancos have won three of the four previous 'derbi' finals including all three at the Bernabeu.
The Argentine coach admitted that Madrid had the better side man-for-man, but said that anything can happen in a final and his honest, humble team would give it their best shot.
"They are better, without a doubt, but in a one-off game everything is different, everything is possible," Simeone said. "We are a team who works with a lot of commitment and humility. We are like the normal people in today's world, where everything is difficult, everything costs us a lot. I hope we can show that with work and humility, a team like ours can compete with Real Madrid and achieve this success."
Simeone, who was happy to give away his starting XI before the game ["Courtois, Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Filipe Luis, Arda, Mario, Gabi, Koke, Diego Costa and Falcao"] said he felt Madrid were under more pressure given their failures to win either the La Liga or Champions League trophies this season.
"Tomorrow is special for our players," he said. "I believe in them and did not overplay the motivation because it is a game and they have to play. Fear exists for both sides. When I put myself in Madrid's place I can see that it will be difficult for them if they lose."
Atletico had already achieved their primary objective of Champions League qualification, so their players and fans could enjoy themselves at the Bernabeu, Simeone said.
"The main goal was to be among the top three and get into the Champions League, to ensure a better economic future for the club, but the most important for the fans is to win tournaments," he said. "The fans are not going to celebrate the third place, but they will celebrate this type of game. Since the Cup began we wanted to win and we are in the place where we wanted to be."
A tight game between two teams who prefer to sit back and look to hit opponents on the break could be in store, Simeone predicted.
"Real Madrid are a team with are difficult to contain when there is space, and we are a dangerous team with space," he said. "The team with the best connection between midfield and attack will be closer to the victory."
El Cholo said bringing the squad away this week to the Los Angeles de San Rafael development in the mountains near Segovia was an attempt to recreate the positive mood generated during pre-season training there.
"I am a little old fashioned but I like to go back to the roots," he said. "And the roots were back here in preseason, where we began to build the dreams, illusions, work, train. I wanted to return to the same place where we started working. Back to the same place where they began to imagine all that could happen during the season. I wanted them to feel it. Hard work certainly brings important results."