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Mar 10, 2014

Simeone: Milan not just about Balotelli

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone says he expects Milan’s great players such as Mario Balotelli to show up in Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 second leg, but his side will progress if they can control midfield in the game at the Estadio Vicente Calderon.

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone says he expects Milan’s great players such as Mario Balotelli to show up in Tuesday’s Champions League last 16 second leg, but his side will progress if they can control midfield in the game at the Estadio Vicente Calderon.

Atletico have a 1-0 advantage from the first game at Milan’s San Siro, where Diego Costa’s late header rewarded the visitors’ strong second half display.

Asked at his pre-game news conference if the Italian side’s poor current form made him confident of progression, the Argentine coach said he expected Milan’s big names to be at their best on the big European stage.

“Milan is a very strong institution in football history, accustomed to winning in this competition and with players with a lot of talent,” Simeone said. “I expect the best Milan, for sure we will have a tough game tomorrow, it will be very difficult. Great players show up in big games, regardless of the form they might be in. Milan have great players, and we must expect them at their best.”

Simeone accepted that Balotelli would need to be watched, but said the most important thing was to ensure Milan’s attackers had no spaces to move into.

“Balotelli can make the difference, but it is the team which makes him powerful,” he said. “They are also dangerous on the wings through [Mattia] De Sciglio and [Urby] Emanuelson. [Sulley] Muntari has a good shot. With spaces they are a difficult team to play against. We will try and take away those spaces, so they cannot damage us with this game. Our concern is more with where moves start.”

Control of the midfield was his primary preoccupation, Simeone added.

“It is clear that the advantage from the first leg is short,” he said. “But it invites [Milan] to have to come out to score a goal. So we will have to contain them, and then look to attack too. A lot will depend on the intensity we show in the centre of the field, we must be strong there. If we have control there we will be more comfortable. Otherwise the game will be more open, which would be better for them.”

Atletico have no new injury worries after Saturday’s 2-0 La Liga win at Celta Vigo, in which the often benched lately David Villa scored twice when starting in place of the suspended Diego Costa in attack and Diego Ribas got a rare start in midfield.

Simeone said Costa -- and Diego Godin and Arda Turan -- were likely to return to against Milan, but he had yet to decide his line-up for Tuesday’s game.

“It depends on how people recover from the enormous effort which was made in Vigo,” he said. “We will see how today’s training session goes and tomorrow we will make our decisions. Arda, Costa and Diego Godin will return. And there could be some other changes. Diego [Ribas'] performance made us happy, [Jose] Sosa’s entrance and Villa’s goals too. It helps us as a group, ahead of the games to come.”

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