Atletico Madrid star Joao Felix has denied there are problems between him and head coach Diego Simeone.
The Portugal star has struggled for consistency at the Wanda Metropolitano and Simeone appeared to question his work-rate last week, although he later claimed his comments had been misinterpreted.
The €126million attacker is set to start on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge, where Atleti will attempt to overturn a 1-0 deficit to Chelsea in the Champions League last 16.
The 21-year-old, who has vowed to make sure he maximises his talent during his career, now hopes to prove there is a strong working relationship at the club.
“I’m happy here, my family are too. There are good and not-so-good phases everywhere,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
“I had to defend for Benfica and the national team, too. I’ll do what I have to do here.
“Without will, talent doesn’t come through. Many talented players could not reach the top due to not having will and I don’t want that to happen to me.
“The moment for me has to be all the time. We’re strong because we’re a very strong group. And that will be the case tomorrow.”
Joao Felix caused a stir with a pointed celebration after scoring against Villarreal, in which he made a ‘shushing’ gesture, something that delighted Simeone.
The player himself says the incident was simply part of a joke with team-mate Renan Lodi, which was blown out of proportion.
“I already said on Instagram that it was a joke with Lodi. The press likes to talk about things they don’t know about,” he said.
“My relationship with Cholo is very good. He always tries to help me. We’re here to help each other.”
12 – Thomas Tuchel is unbeaten in all 12 of his games in charge of Chelsea in all competitions, the joint-longest unbeaten start by a manager in the club’s history (Felipe Scolari also 12). Bounce. pic.twitter.com/mJ8V91wObe
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 13, 2021
Atleti are unbeaten under Simeone in two previous Champions League trips to Stamford Bridge and have progressed from four of the eight two-legged ties in the competition in which they have lost the first leg.
However, a run of two wins in 10 away games in the knockouts does not bode well against a side who are unbeaten in 12 matches under Thomas Tuchel and have conceded only twice in that run.
Simeone hopes to turn that good form into a negative for Chelsea, who have had to cope with only minimal setbacks since Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard.
“I believe today Chelsea don’t have a weakness,” he said. “The only thing is they don’t know what can happen from a negative point of view.
“They have not had a negative result yet and that will be a question until it happens.
“We are facing a team that has done quite well since their coach has come, they have never lost. They feel strong at home and are playing quite well.
“They have had games like us around the Champions League matches that have been close and tough. We have to take the match where we want so we can win with a goal. The single idea is to win.”
16 – Luis Suárez has scored 16 goals in his first 17 games for Atlético de Madrid in LaLiga, becoming the fastest player to reach 16 goals for the same club in the competition in the 21st century (Cristiano Ronaldo – 15 goals for Real Madrid in 2009/10). Amazing. pic.twitter.com/wHbLRFdA7P
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 8, 2021
Simeone is backing Luis Suarez to make the difference and end his barren Champions League run, the Uruguay striker having not scored in the competition this season.
Suarez’s away run in the competition is of greater concern, the 34-year-old having failed to score in his previous 25 such games for Atleti and Barcelona since netting in a 1-1 draw with Roma at Stadio Olimpico in September 2015.
“I believe Suarez is very important for us,” Simeone said. “Probably tomorrow is the right day for Luis Suarez to end the streak. Why not? Tomorrow could be a beautiful day.”