By Tim Hanlon
(Reuters) – Atletico Madrid’s strength is based around a solid defence but coach Diego Simeone is still wary of the attacking threat from Galatasaray as they seek to qualify for the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday.
A draw at home to Galatasaray will seal their passage into the knockout stages. They are second in Group C with seven points from four games and trail Benfica by two while the Turkish side are third with four points.
They take on a struggling Galatasaray side with Claudio Taffarel as caretaker coach following the dismissal of Hamza Hamzaoglu and who must win to have a chance of qualifying.
Galatasaray lost to Benfica in their last European game and have not won in their last two domestic league games. Simeone though pointed to the Turkish side’s strength going forward having lost 4-3 to Rizespor and then drawn 3-3 with Antalyaspor.
“We have looked at their players and they are players with standing and experience,” Simeone told a news conference.
“In their last two games they have scored six goals and this shows that they are a side which is dangerous in front of goal which is something we will have to deal with and it will not be easy for us. They have though conceded a lot.
“We are looking at their style of play and they have a lot of character. They are Turks and they will not give anything up. They will show energy to fight while they still have possibilities to qualify.”
Simeone has taken pride in the way his hard working side have upset the traditional hierarchy in Europe in recent seasons and they are looking strong again, having moved above Real Madrid into second place in La Liga last Sunday.
Atletico beat Real Betis 1-0 away and are two points above Real, and four behind leaders Barcelona, having not conceded in the last three games.
Captain Gabi Fernandez denied that they are too defensive and need to offer more going forward with the team having also scored only three goals in the last four matches.
“No I don’t think so, but it is true our game is built around our defensive strength,” he told reporters.
“All the team works well and we are tactically very sound. Sometimes the problem is when teams defend deeply but I think we are playing very well and are on the right lines.”
(Reporting by Tim Hanlon in Barcelona, editing by Ken Ferris)