Atletico coach counting on Calderon cauldron
MADRID - Agence France-PresseDiego Simeone has called on the Atletico Madrid fans to contribute to a memorable night as the team hosts Barcelona in the second leg of its Champions League quarterfinal tonight.
The tie is level at 1-1 as Neymar's equalizer canceled out Diego's incredible strike for Atletico to ensure there has still not been a winner in four meetings between the sides so far this season.
Simeone was seen imploring the crowd at the Vicente Calderon to raise the noise levels as Atletico held on for a 1-0 win at home to Villarreal on April 5 to maintain its place at the top of La Liga.
And the Argentine wants more of the same to help his side get over the line against four-time European champions Barça.
"I know a lot about the club and the fans need to understand what is important for us, especially at this stage in the season having played so many games," he said.
"The atmosphere was rocking and that gives you more energy and strength to compete. When people ask 'why do we support Atleti,' it is for this. We are passionate, humble, work hard and if we have to suffer, we suffer."
Both Simeone and Barca boss Gerardo Martino lamented how much the first leg had taken out of their respective squads as Barca also struggled to a 3-1 win over bottom side Real Betis on April 5.
Barcelona will also be affected by key injuries to Victor Valdes and Gerard Pique as they travel to the Spanish capital.
Veteran goalkeeper Jose Pinto will start instead of Valdes.
However, Marc Bartra, who will deputize for Pique at the heart of the Barca defense, believes they have already shown their ability to overcome injuries this season having lost Lionel Messi for two months earlier in the campaign.
"We have had bad luck with injuries, but this group has shown that it can overcome delicate situations. We need to do that again and do our best," he told the club's website.
"I am very positive, we are going to the Calderon full of hope that we can go through."
Atletico could also be without top scorer Diego Costa as he limped off with a hamstring injury after just half an hour of the first leg last week.
Further tests revealed the Spanish international has suffered just a strain rather than a complete tear and Simeone may take the risk of rushing him back into action as Atletico target a first semi-final in Europe's premier club competition since 1974.
Arda Turan also missed the Villarreal game due to injury but is expected to return as will captain Gabi as he was suspended at the weekend.
The only doubt for Barça will be whether Martino was again chooses to go with all of Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta in midfield or sacrifice one of the Spanish international quartet for the pace of Pedro Rodriguez or Chilean attacker Alexis Sanchez.