‘Champions must beat Madrid or Barca’

Diego Simeone has no regrets over Barcelona being Atletico Madrid’s Copa del Rey semi-final opponents as “champions always have to beat the best”.

Atleti’s last-four tie with Barca has been publicised as an early final, with both sides regarded as the strongest left in the competition, but Simeone insists his side must earn the right to be regarded in such a manner.

“Barca an early final? I treat it as a semi-final and it’s normal to always face important teams at this stage,” the Coach said at a Press conference ahead of Saturday’s clash with Alaves in La Liga.

“We’re used to the fact that in order to become champions, you always have to beat Real Madrid or Barcelona.

“They’re the two best teams in the world and you’ll face them in any competition.

“Alaves? They’re working very well, they know what they want, they have very quick forwards and work well from set-pieces.

“They can win the ball back and push on, plus they can hurt you on the outside.

“Theo [Hernandez] is very good, especially in attack, but we’ll try to play the game we want.

“Pellegrino? He found it difficult at first, he was trying to put everything in place while players arrived, but [Alaves] still competed well.

“His tactical work has been very good. A team that are in the Copa del Rey semi-finals speak for themselves in terms of work.

“Theo? I haven’t watched all of his games, although we’re about to face him.

“He’s growing in accordance with what he’d already shown when he was with us. Playing time makes young lads grow.

“It happened to Saul at Rayo. It’s all about gaining experience. Theo’s doing that and we’re happy about what’s happening to him.”

Tags Diego Simeone