Atletico Madrid midfielder Tiago says playing against his former Chelsea teammates in Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal second leg will be special, but nothing will distract him from the goal of reaching the final.
Tiago spent the 2004-05 season at Chelsea during Jose Mourinho’s first spell in charge, winning the Premier League title alongside John Terry, Frank Lampard and Petr Cech, but he will now be looking to help Atletico reach next month’s final in Lisbon.
The former Portugal international, 32, told the official prematch news conference: “It was a great year at Chelsea, unforgettable, with same boss and some teammates.
“Of course it is a very special game for me, but it is a Champions League semifinal. I see Lisbon already close, also a stadium I know very well, where I had some great moments, but I cannot get distracted yet because tomorrow will be very difficult. So I must focus on what I have to do, and if selected play my best.”
Last week's goalless first leg in Madrid saw Chelsea receive criticism from pundits in both England and Spain for an ultra-defensive performance.
However, Tiago, who is likely to start in place of suspended Atletico captain Gabi Fernandez in midfield, said Atletico had a quite similar approach to the game.
“I imagine Chelsea will begin the game strongly, but nothing much will change,” he said. “They are a very organised team, who try to take advantage of set plays, free [kicks], corners, and the individual quality of each player. We do the same --- make use of the ball when we have it. We are also very strong at dead balls. We will try and be stronger than them in the battle in the centre of the pitch.”
Chelsea are hoping to reach a third final in seven seasons, while Atletico have not been this far in the competition for 40 years. However, Tiago denied that the English side’s recent record in the competition would be an advantage for them.
“We are a very experienced team,” Tiago said. “It is true that we have not played much in Champions League, but I feel my colleagues are comfortable in these big moments. I have played in many big teams and know this side are ready for such a challenge. We are excited, this is a semifinal, a great opportunity for us, to try and make the final in Lisbon.”