Diego Simeone has challenged Atletico Madrid to prove themselves as worthy Copa del Rey winners by beating Barcelona in the last four.
Atleti were pitted against the holders in the semi-final draw on Friday, with the winners set to meet either Alaves or Celta Vigo – the conquerors of Real Madrid – in the final.
Barca have won the last two Copa ties with the 2013 winners but Atleti have emerged victorious on the last two occasions they have met in the semis, which includes a 6-0 aggregate win in 1999-2000, when the Catalans forfeited the second leg over a dispute with the Spanish Football Federation.
Simeone says it is no surprise to have to face Barca at this stage of a major competition and wants his players to show they are of the same calibre as Luis Enrique’s side.
“I value it as a semi-final and it’s normal to face these against major teams, we’re used to that,” he told a news conference on Friday.
“To reach the best, you have to be champion and you have to go through them [Barca]. They’re the best in the world.
“We’ve had five years here and I don’t understand any way to be champion other than to face them. They’re usually in the semi-finals of the Copa, of the Champions League…
“It’s the normal road for the Copa.”
Atleti sit eight points adrift of LaLiga leaders Real Madrid – having played a game more – following their 2-2 draw with Athletic Bilbao last week, and anything other than a win against Alaves on Saturday will effectively end any lingering title hopes.
Simeone feels Alaves deserve plenty of praise for their approach but is determined to see his side return to top form.
“We want to improve – we’ll try to grow,” he said. “Alaves are a well-organised team, they do fantastic work, they raise their capabilities when they face the strongest.
“They know what they want, they have very fast people up front. They’re a dangerous team.”
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