Leicester an inspiration for giant-killing Atletico
Leicester City’s remarkable run to the verge of the Premier League title has inspired Atletico Madrid in their aim to land a historic Champions League and La Liga double, claims defender Filipe Luis.
Atletico face Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Wednesday looking to cause another big upset after dumping defending champions Barcelona out in the quarter-finals.
The budget used to put together Diego Simeone’s side pales into comparison next to the riches of the other three semi-finalists as the world’s richest club Real Madrid face the Abu Dhabi-backed Manchester City in the other semi-final.
However, former Chelsea defender Luis believes Leicester’s meteoric rise to the top of the Premier League is an inspiration to clubs the world over that money can’t always buy success at the top level.
“It is happening this year in the Premier League with Leicester. They are a modest team that are almost champions of the Premier League,” said the Brazilian international.
“In football these epic things happen because, although there is a difference in budget, we are the team that plays most as a team.
“We don’t have a superstar, we have a team where everyone runs and fights for the person next to them and that makes us stronger.”
The pain of missing out in the final minute of the final against bitter rivals Real two years ago is still fresh in Atletico minds as they target a first ever Champions League triumph.
However, they are also seeking revenge against Bayern as they conceded an equaliser in the final minute of extra-time against the German giants in their only other final 42 years ago before Munich went on to dominate the replay 4-0.
Atletico’s brilliant defensive organisation proved too good for Barca’s star front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar in the last round.
However, the Spaniards are likely to be without lynchpin Diego Godin for the first leg due to a hamstring injury.
And Luis believes Bayern’s deadly duo of Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Mueller offer a different threat.
“Bayern are a different team to Barcelona because Bayern play with two goalscorers in the area and two very wide players,” he added.
“Barca play with just Suarez in the area. Bayern have a lot of resources, they will have the majority of the ball for sure, but we also believe in our strengths.”
– Embarrassing circumstances -In contrast to Atletico’s relative lack of experience at this stage of the competition, Bayern have made it to the last four for the fifth consecutive season.
However, they have fallen in embarrassing circumstances to Spanish opposition in the semi-finals at the hands of Real Madrid and Barcelona in the past two seasons.
And there is extra pressure on coach Pep Guardiola to deliver the Champions League in his final campaign in Bavaria before joining Manchester City next season.
“We have to be ready. We know that Atletico are a totally different proposition to what we have experienced so far,” said Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
“They threw Barcelona out and we know, of course from our coach, that we will be playing against a brutally hard opponent and experience a heated atmosphere in their stadium.”
In contrast to Atletico’s tight three-way battle with Barca and Real Madrid for the Spanish title, Bayern can focus their attention on Europe as they are just one win away from sealing a record fourth Bundesliga.
And their defensive troubles could be eased by the return of German international Jerome Boateng through injury after three months out with a groin injury.
However, Arjen Robben looks set to miss at least the first leg with an groin problem.