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Simeone has faith in Courtois

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21 Apr 2014 17:02:02

Simeone has faith in Courtois

Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone insists Thibaut Courtois has the same single-minded focus as his team-mates as the Belgium goalkeeper prepares to face his parent club Chelsea in Tuesday's Champions League semi-final first leg at the Vicente Calderon Stadium.

The 21-year-old is on loan at Atletico for a third successive season and, in line with UEFA rules, is free to play the Blues as the teams compete for a place in the May 24 final in Lisbon against Real Madrid or defending champions Bayern Munich.

It was reported that Chelsea would demand the Spanish side pay a fee of around 3million euros for each game in accordance with their confidential loan agreement, but UEFA announced it expected Courtois to be free to face the Blues.

Simeone is ready to place his trust in the goalkeeper.

"I think his state of mind is the same as all other 20 members of the squad," Simeone said.

"There's a lot of enthusiasm ahead of this match. It's not just important for them, it's important for the club."

Courtois played for Atletico in their 2012 UEFA Super Cup win over Chelsea, then the European champions.

The stakes are a little higher this time around and Simeone was reluctant to single out his goalkeeper, who could next season be given a chance at Stamford Bridge to displace Petr Cech.

Another player who could be at Chelsea next term is Diego Costa, touted as Jose Mourinho's number one target to bolster his forward line.

Mourinho has bemoaned his options up front this term, with Samuel Eto'o - absent for the trip with a knee injury - Fernando Torres and Demba Ba struggling in front of goal.

Simeone said: "I think they have very important strikers such as Eto'o and Torres.

"They have proven it, they have demonstrated it. They have won the World Cup and Champions League."

On the prospects of Costa moving to Chelsea, Simeone added: "It wouldn't surprise me that any financially powerful team would have Costa on their side. He's a very good player and scores very well."

Torres played against his first club in Monaco, but will make his first return to Atletico's home ground since his July 2007 move to Liverpool, from whom he joined Chelsea for £50million.

Simeone expects Torres to be given a warm reception.

"Torres is someone that really likes the club, really likes the people, really has all these good memories," added Simeone, who could select former Chelsea midfielder Tiago in his line-up.

"Tomorrow I think he'll probably play. I hope before the match and I'm sure he'll receive the ovation that he deserves. He's really loved by the club.

"I hope that for him they recognise him, like they did in Monaco.

"Deep down Torres is one of us, one of Atletico Madrid."

Atletico lead the Primera Division ahead of Barcelona and city rivals Real and are in the last four of the Champions League after beating the Catalans in the quarter-finals.

Simeone is not ready to declare the season a success, though.

"The assessment will have to wait for the end of the season," he said.

"The team is growing match by match, but we haven't won anything yet."

Atletico are the last team in the competition with an unbeaten home record and have played English teams nine times at home and never lost.

Los Rojiblancos are unbeaten in 12 matches and beat Elche last weekend while Chelsea lost to relegation-threatened Sunderland.

Simeone is focused only on his side, and Raul Garcia is wary.

Midfielder Garcia said: "We respect them and we know what we have to work at: to make sure we have a strong defence and make sure they do not score.

"We're aware of the importance of the match tomorrow, but we have to be very concentrated.

"It's going to be very equal. It's going to be a very physical match.

"We're a team that fights, that has a lot of ambition and wants to win. We do not have fear. We have respect."


PA

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