Thiago Alcantara says Atletico Madrid have earned their Champions League semi-final berth and acknowledges the quality and importance of Koke.
Bayern Munich meet Atletico on Wednesday in the first leg at Vicente Calderon and Spain international Thiago has considered the challenge posed by Diego Simeone’s side.
“We know the difficulty of playing against Atleti. They deserve recognition for the defence they have, the block they are and the history they’ve made these last few years. It’s no coincidence they’re up there,” the ex-Barcelona midfielder told AS.
“They’ve incorporated Saul Niguez, who has found his place in the team, and Augusto Fernandez, who was at Celta Vigo. They’ve had some injuries in defence and have overcome them very well with home-grown players such as Lucas. Even with the absences they’ve been fantastic.
“It’s one thing to play fair and another to have a high physical intensity. That’s a quality of theirs. They have their weapons. Years of experience give them that. I haven’t seen anyone punching anyone…
“My father [Mazinho] won the 1994 World Cup with Brazil, with Dunga and Mauro Silva and you can’t be more defensive than that. Atletico aren’t defensive, they have players who can play. It’s not a surprise they have a team full of players who can play and work.
“Koke? He’s a formidable player. He has assists, he scores goals, he also has a remarkable physical ability. He does everything. He’s very important for Atletico and for the national team.”