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Athletic Bilbao v Atletico Madrid: In-form Torres calls for focus as title race hots up

Fernando Torres has warned Atletico Madrid to avoid looking beyond Wednesday’s trip to Athletic Bilbao as they hunt both domestic and European glory.

Barcelona’s remarkable and unexpected slump has blown the Liga title race wide open, with a run of three consecutive defeats allowing Atletico to draw level on points with the reigning champions at the top of the table.

Diego Simeone’s team inflicted further misery on Barca by knocking them out of the Champions League last week. Atletico’s reward for their 3-2 aggregate victory is a semi-final tie against Bayern Munich, the first leg of which takes place at the Vicente Calderon next Wednesday.

However, in-form striker Torres – who has scored in each of his last four appearances, including Sunday’s comfortable 3-0 win over Granada – has called on Atletico to think only of their match at San Mames.

When asked about the prospect of Atletico winning their first Champions League title at a sponsors’ event on Monday, Torres replied: “I see myself in Bilbao on Wednesday, I do not look beyond the motto ‘game by game’.

“Take one step at a time. The Champions League is far away, so now we have to get the three points in Bilbao. I do not look beyond that.

“We are excited and enjoying a very nice period, but we do not settle for what we have achieved.”

Athletic, meanwhile, go into Wednesday’s game in desperate need of three points to keep their dreams of Champions League qualification alive.

Sunday’s 1-0 win at Malaga, coupled with Villarreal’s surprise defeat at Rayo Vallecano, moved Ernesto Valverde’s side to within six points of Marcelino’s fourth-placed team.

Bilbao displayed impressive resolve at La Rosaleda having suffered the heartbreak of a penalty shootout loss to Sevilla in the Europa League quarter-finals just three days previously.

And midfielder Ander Iturraspe is determined to put a dent in Atletico’s title challenge with another three points this week.

“Atletico is a team you want to beat – you always want to beat the best teams in Europe,” he told AS.

“They will be motivated, but we are playing at home. There is a great desire to compete and win this match.”

Atletico duo Antoine Griezmann and Koke head to San Mames in fine form, but Iturraspe says Athletic will look to limit their impact by defending well as a unit.

“We will have to be very compact – to play together and help each other. But they are not just about
Griezmann and Koke,” he added.

Mon 18 Apr, 2016
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