Diego Simeone had little desire to discuss old foe Cristiano Ronaldo as Atletico Madrid prepare to host Juventus in a mouthwatering Champions League last-16 clash.
Ronaldo completed a shock €112million switch to Juve in July, having won four Champions League titles with Real Madrid and become the LaLiga giants’ all-time top scorer.
The five-time Ballon d’Or recipient netted 22 times in Madrid derbies but, speaking at a pre-match news conference, Atletico head coach Simeone was more inclined to focus on his own enviable batch of talent.
“He made a decision to change and has picked a big challenge in going to Juventus,” Simeone said.
“But we’re thinking instead about [Antoine] Griezmann, [Alvaro] Morata, [Diego] Costa, Koke, Saul [Niguez]…
“They are excited and very keen to play a good game.
“I feel excited about being in the Champions League, which is such a nice competition, against an opponent as powerful as this.
“After not making it this far last year, we want to grow as a club and a team.”
— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) February 19, 2019
Atleti made the most of dropping down to the Europa League after last season’s group stages, going on to win Europe’s secondary club competition.
They were beaten in the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals by Madrid, in extra time and on penalties respectively.
Juventus have also endured similar near misses in the modern era, coming up short in the 2015 and 2017 showpieces.
“This is the last 16 and there’s no trophy at this stage,” Simeone said.
“We face a powerful and strong opponent and a coach who has been at his club for many years, the same as is the case here.
“They have players of great quality and status. We have tools as well to take the game where we want to.
“Both these teams have a 50 percent chance. Neither side has a greater advantage than the other.”
Diego Costa is not ready to play 90 minutes, according to Simeone, having recently returned from foot surgery, while Koke (thigh) will be assessed.
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