Having risen to the Liga summit and reached the last eight of the UEFA Champions League unbeaten, any lingering doubts about Club Atlético de Madrid's ability to mix it with the elite have been put to bed.
The mattress makers are still portrayed as underdogs punching above their weight in the eyes of experienced midfielder Tiago, however, as his side prepare for Tuesday's quarter-final opener at FC Barcelona. "We have our own identity and it's easy for people to identify with us," he said. "We're fighting against teams in the Champions League with big budgets, so that's why I think we're like the Robin Hood of football."
Atlético have been far from charitable on their return to Europe's premier club competition, though, dispatching AC Milan 5-1 on aggregate in the round of 16 having emerged from the group stage unbeaten. Not bad considering that the 32-year-old is relatively new to this stage of the competition despite turning out for the likes of Juventus and Chelsea FC before moving to Spain initially on loan in 2010.
Inexperience, Tiago says, is not a chink in Atlético's armour, however. "I have years of experience but I have only played in two Champions League quarter-finals, and Barcelona have featured in six," he said. "I feel very comfortable playing for this team and we've been involved in a few finals in recent years, so we definitely have enough experience."
The emphasis will be on Barcelona to attack as the home team but throwing caution to the wind is not in the visitors' makeup. "Scoring away from home is very important and gives you security for the second leg. In recent games against Barcelona we stuck to our game, but were also well organised," said Tiago.
Indeed, there has been little to choose between the sides this term with all three meetings ending in a stalemate. Diego Simeone's men are a point clear of Barcelona in the race for the Liga title, meanwhile, yet Tiago is taking nothing for granted. "We are playing a Barcelona team full of great players. We have to play as well as we can and use our own weapons."
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