‘Every ball a war for Atletico’

Saul Niguez says ‘every ball is a war Atletico Madrid must win’ as he prepares for the Champions League semi-final with Bayern Munich.

The midfielder has told AS he is looking forward to the tie but dismissed the suggestion Atletico are playing for revenge for the 1974 European Cup Final, when Bayern were victorious after a replay.

“I’m eager, for this game, just for being a semi-final, against a team as great as Bayern. It gives you extra motivation. We’re very excited,” he revealed.

“For the older fans it can be a rematch [from 1974], but not for us. For us it’s an opportunity to keep growing, to continue making history with Atletico, making the club bigger. That’s our way of thinking. I haven’t talked to any ex-players about revenge, no. I don’t know about my teammates.”

Saul admitted, however, that Bayern could be the favourites for the tie, for their stature as much as anything else, as well as the resources available to Pep Guardiola, but the nature of the fixture offered some balance.

“It’s not just budgets but also the history of Bayern in the Champions League. They’re one of the greats, a team for the name alone that could be favourites. But it’s a knockout, two legs, and things have to happen on the pitch. I don’t think there is a favourite,” Saul continued.

“In these games you have to demonstrate more and talk less. All the players are excited, eager, with extra motivation. These games are approached with humility and sacrifice. The team will do well, I’m sure.

“I am afraid of Bayern. It’s not that I’m afraid, but I have respect because they’re a big club, a great team. They can hurt you in many ways. They can use the wings, in the air, on the ground…they have a lot of variety and this can cause a lot of damage.”

Comments made by Juan Bernat that suggested Atletico practice football’s dark arts were put to Saul, who insisted the left-back wasn’t trying to cause trouble and explained how he saw the team’s approach.

“I know Bernat, I know he hasn’t said that with malice. We’re always going into any disputed ball strong, each ball is a war we have to win because we know that any second ball, any ball we miss could lead to an attack, to a goal,” he acknowledged.

“I don’t feel bad about it. To me we’re a strong team, we go into every dispute as if it was the last one and that means we’re able to play these games and be where we are now.”

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