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Apr 21, 2014

Simeone backs Courtois vs. Chelsea

ESPN FC's Alison Bender gets the opinion of some Chelsea fans leading up to Blues' Champions League semi-final match with Atletico Madrid.

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone says that on-loan goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois will have no issues about facing his "parent" club Chelsea in Tuesday's Champions League semifinal first leg at the Estadio Vicente Calderon.

Thibaut Courtois has excelled during his time on loan at Atletico Madrid.
Thibaut Courtois is in his third season on loan with Atletico Madrid.

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Although UEFA has stated that no player can be prohibited from taking the field against their "parent" club, it has been widely acknowledged in Spain that the clubs have reached a private agreement to allow the Belgium international to play in both semifinal legs. Some reports have claimed that a loan deal for next season could be affected by the bargaining.

While nobody has confirmed that Courtois is definitely going to start Tuesday's game, the Colchoneros coach told reporters at his pregame news conference that the 21-year-old was just as focused as his colleagues on being at his best for such an important fixture.

“Courtois' state of mind is the same as that of all his teammates,” Simeone said. “They are all filled with enthusiasm. They know the importance of this moment for the players, for the institution and for the fans. We will all try and give our best. [Courtois' future next season] is not something I am concerned about, or that I have anything to say about.”

The game is likely to be a tight tactical affair between two coaches in Simeone and Chelsea's Jose Mourinho who prefer their sides to play on the counter rather than control games through possession of the ball, something the Argentine accepted.

“We are not the same teams but we have similar characteristics,” Simeone said. “We are both among teams to have conceded least goals in our leagues, both with good defences and direct attacks. We are also both good at set-pieces. That has got them fighting for the league in England and us where we are now.”

Atletico's group of mostly cheap transfers and youth products are also close to clinching this season's La Liga title, something Simeone put down to his side's team ethic which allowed individuals to shine.

“I am with [Atletico captain] Gabi when he says that there might be better players but not with more passion than us,” Simeone said. “I imagine this will be a game decided by details, or by some piece of individual quality. Whoever works most in collective effort will have more chance for individuals to shine. That team will be closer to progressing.”

Atletico's Turkey midfielder Arda Turan is close to a return from a groin problem which forced him off during the quarterfinal elimination of Barcelona, meaning Simeone has almost a full-strength squad to pick from. But ahead of his final preparatory training session he said he had yet to decide his XI for the game.

“I still have some doubts about the starting lineup,” Simeone said. “After [Monday evening’s] training session I will resolve them. We are not thinking about any other game apart from this one. We know our strengths and our weaknesses. We will try to take advantage of our strengths and disguise our weaknesses.”

The former Estudiantes, Racing Club, River Plate and San Lorenzo and Catania coach, batted away a question about whether he saw himself as a potential candidate to succeed David Moyes as Manchester United manager.

“With all due respect to the question and I understand the situation but the match tomorrow is very important for us,” Simeone said. “I am not thinking about anything which is not my players and Chelsea.”

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