Atletico Madrid midfielder Tiago has talked up his side’s chances of success against Chelsea in the Champions League semifinals and drawn comparisons between Diego Simeone and Jose Mourinho in an interview with Marca.
Tiago, 32, believes the Blues’ greater experience in Europe does not necessarily give them the edge.
Chelsea won the competition two years ago, and are able to call on a number of veterans, including John Terry, Petr Cech and Frank Lampard who have been in the tournament’s final stages on numerous occasions.
But La Liga leaders Atletico are enjoying the season of their lives and go into the games with confidence high after knocking out Barcelona in the quarterfinals.
“I do not believe so,” Tiago said when asked if Chelsea are favourites. “With the spirit we bring to every game, we will not be nervous.
“We are going out to enjoy ourselves, to compete with a great team, something which we love and will enjoy. We live these 90 minutes with such excitement that the pressure does not affect us.”
Tiago spent the 2004-05 season at Stamford Bridge under fellow Portuguese Mourinho, winning the Premier League title and League Cup. He has enjoyed similar success under Simeone at the Estadio Vicente Calderon, winning the Europa League in 2012 and the Copa del Rey in 2013.
The former Portugal international says the two managers’ desire to win at all costs marks them out as among the best at what they do and has backed Simeone to follow in Mourinho’s footsteps and go on to even greater success.
“Simeone and Mou are alike in that they only have one thing in their head -- to win. They are very competitive, they do not let their team rest, believe that everything is done.
“They are winners, they live the game a lot, and that is why they are elite coaches. I believe [Simeone] will follow the footsteps of Mourinho. We play in a different way than Barcelona, but each team has their own strengths. I enjoy a lot how Atletico play. I watch the team on the TV and I just think of saying that I am so proud of this team.”
Having won league titles with Chelsea and Lyon, Tiago is familiar with what it takes, but even he admits it will be special if Atletico can hold off the threat of Real Madrid and Barcelona to clinch the Primera Division.
“It is hard for me to talk about a possible title win,” he said. “But if it happens, it will be the most special. But I still do not see it as possible.
“It is true that each week there is less to go, and we are still first in the table, but I still see myself as far from winning this Liga. It would be the most special because I won the others before the final day. We have very difficult games. Barcelona and Madrid remain favourites for all they have.
“Although it is true that we are in a privileged position and depend on ourselves.
“To win this Liga would be a miracle. To win the Copa or another knock out competition is easier. To beat clubs like this in a league is almost impossible. I would say impossible, but with just five games left now it is almost impossible. We are having a spectacular season.
“We deserve a lot of credit, but now we are coming to the end we just need to finish it well. And that includes beating Elche [on Friday].”
Diego Costa has been linked with a move away from Atletico in the summer, with Chelsea one of the main clubs reportedly interested in his services.
Although Tiago insists it is important to keep him, he adds that it may prove impossible, saying: “He has evolved a lot in games, because he always trained really well. I remember when he competed with [Diego] Forlan and Kun [Aguero] and he was already incredible at training.
“I always motivated him and told him to keep going like this. And he never dropped his arms, he always worked really well and at the end he got his chance.
“Today he is our leading figure and I hope he can end the Liga well. He will also be key for next season that he stays here, although that looks difficult to me as he will have a lot of offers.”