Diego Simeone is targeting another three points in the Europa League, whilst he reflects that rested Radamel Falcao should be in Ballon d’Or contention.
Atletico Madrid are preparing for tomorrow’s home European fixture with Portuguese outfit Academica in top spot in their group after maximum points from the first two rounds of action.
“They're a direct side that makes the most of the support of Cisse. They're really competitive. They've shown they're quick to defend with a lot of people,” reflected Simeone at today’s pre-match conference.
“Winning would be a big step towards going through in first place, and a good result puts us on the way. The favourites in the first phase are more for the journalists that for the players.
“You’ve got to play against a competitive team and if we're not up to the task we won’t have a good match.”
The Ballon d’Or award is gradually beginning to dominate Spanish rhetoric at Press conferences with today’s seeing the suggestion that Falcao could be in contention.
“I believe in that, commented Simeone. “If we look at recent seasons… he was a champion and goalscorer in the Europa League. He's among the three best players in the world.
“He doesn’t have anything to envy about anybody. Messi and Cristiano have been in different positions. His fantastic form is a reality and the result of his hard work.”
“As a finisher he is one of the few that is always thinking about the last ball. He grows every game. That makes him clinical in the area, his natural habitat. There are few players of his kind there now.”
Simeone was also asked his view on Barcelona’s manner of winning last night in the dying moments of play.
“Barça don't seem in trouble to me. If they get to the end of the match with a chance it’s because things have happened before.
“The team insists on not letting their heads drop and not giving anything away for 90 minutes.”
Simeone has named 18 players for Thursday’s match, resting Falcao, Joao Miranda, Juanfran Torres and Mario Suarez. Arda Turan is absent through injury.
Atletico Madrid squad to face Academica: Thibaut Courtois, Sergio Asenjo, Kader Oueslati, Cata Diaz y Filipe Luis, Tiago Mendes, Emre Belozoglu, Gabi Fernandez, Koke, Cristian Rodríguez, Raul Garcia, Adrian Lopez, Diego Costa.