Cesar Azpilicueta: Atletico Madrid are at the same level as Barcelona and Real Madrid

Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta has heaped praise on Atletico Madrid ahead of their Champions League last 16 first leg in Bucharest.

The Spanish international is set to captain Thomas Tuchel’s side against Los Rojiblancos, in their first meeting since being paired together in the 2017/18 group stages.

Atletico head to Romania on the back of an impressive start to 2021, with a three point lead at the top of the La Liga table, and Azpilicueta believes they are as good as Barcelona or Real Madrid.

Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta

They are very solid, they know very well how they play and with top quality players,” he told an interview with Marca.

“You have to play perfectly to get through, and we face the leader of La Liga on their own merits.

“Simeone is getting incredible results, last year they deservedly eliminated Liverpool.

Atletico have shown in the Europa League and the Champions League, and by winning the league in 2014, they are on par with Barcelona and Madrid.”

Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone

The former Osasuna full back is the most experienced player in Tuchel’s squad with 285 club appearances after joining the club from Marseille in 2012.

He is expected to line up in a back three against Simeone’s side, with Tuchel unlikely to rotate his starting options on their return to European action.

POSSIBLE CHELSEA STARTING XI V ATLETICO MADRID

Mendy; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Rudiger; James, Kante, Kovacic, Mount, Alonso; Werner, Abraham

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