Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone has heaped praise on Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 tie, also taking a cheeky swipe at the club’s younger players.
Since Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge last month he has guided the Blues to five wins out of seven in all competitions.
He also led former club Paris Saint Germain to the final of the Champions League in August. Tuchel has certainly impressed since his arrival, including Simeone.
But amidst praising the new Blues boss, he seemed to aim a sneaky dig at the club’s younger players, implying they hadn’t hit a good enough standard.
“Chelsea is a very strong club, they develop every time and every year,” he said. “They bring a lot of new players and invest in young players.
“When they didn’t see the investment and it didn’t pay, they had that change. They brought Tuchel but it is a really big team and since he came he put a good change in the numbers.”
Many fans and pundits have argued that Lampard’s eagerness to promote youth within the club ultimately cost him his job.
Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Reece James are just some of the names the Chelsea legend managed to integrate as first-teamers during his tenure.
Nevertheless, the Chelsea squad is still steeped in experience and quality, as the Atletico Madrid boss noted.
He added: “Just look at what players they have at goalkeeper, at striker and everyone who is on the bench can very well play in any team in Europe.
“We just have to make a good game against a very big team, with a new coach, a very big coach and an important one that did his job everywhere he went to.”
The first leg of the clash will take place in Bucharest instead of Madrid due to coronavirus travel restrictions and will see the Argentinian face Tuchel for the first time in a competitive fixture.
Suarez an important cog in the Atletico machine
Atletico made a key addition during the summer when they convinced Luis Suarez to join from La Liga rivals Barcelona.
The ex-Liverpool striker has repaid the faith of Simeone with 16 goals to fire them to the top of the table.
“It is very important the presence of Luis Suarez in every competition, not just in the Champions League because he gives energy, he gives trust,” the 50-year-old continued.
“All the opponents are really paying a lot of attention to him because this is a man who is scoring. Of course he is important every day.”
Chelsea will be without Thiago Silva but Simeone played down any advantage that will give to his team.
Atletico will be in unfamiliar surroundings despite this being a home tie, with the fixture to go ahead at the Arena Nationala following Spanish government restrictions on travellers entering the country from England.
Simone insisted: “We don’t have to talk about things we cannot manage. This is what we are living today.
“There are a lot of difficulties for many people, many hard workers. We just love football so this is what we have to do.
“This is where we have to play and we just have to concentrate on the game that we have here.”
Chelsea have not lost to Atletico Madrid since April 201. Their last meeting in the competition ended in a 1-1 draw back in 2017.