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Simeone stirs Atlético support for Barcelona test

Sweating on the fitness of Diego Costa, Club Atlético de Madrid's very own "Messi or Ronaldo", Diego Simeone is relying on the energy of the crowd against FC Barcelona.

Diego Simeone at Tuesday's press conference
Diego Simeone at Tuesday's press conference ©AFP/Getty Images

Club Atlético de Madrid head into one of their biggest UEFA Champions League matches of recent years sweating on the fitness of talismanic striker Diego Costa – a player that Rojiblancos coach Diego Simeone says "is like [Lionel] Messi for Barcelona or Cristiano Ronaldo for Real Madrid".

Atlético – Spanish Liga leaders with six games remaining – welcome FC Barcelona to the Spanish capital having secured a 1-1 draw in last week's quarter-final first leg. Simeone has his fingers crossed that the Estadio Vicente Calderón crowd can make the difference on Wednesday, while Azulgrana counterpart Gerardo Martino is hopeful his side can do what they have failed to do in any of the teams' four meetings this season – score first.

Diego Simeone, coach

There are some special stadiums and this is one of them. Fans can't score a goal but they have energy. I am sure they are going to support us from the start of the match and we will try to respond on the pitch. This will be a passionate game – one of the biggest in the UEFA Champions League – between two teams with different styles.

The result [of the first leg] doesn't mean anything. Barcelona always play offensively and this is a perfect match for them with [potentially] 120 minutes to play. They scored four goals at the Santiago Bernabéu recently and I don't think the pressure is going to affect them. We are going to come up against the best Barcelona players of recent times. These games are special for them and they are used to playing them.

If Diego Costa is fit, he plays. If he is a little less than 100%, he will be on the bench. Otherwise he'll be out. We will have a look at [him] in training. If he doesn't make it, Adrián López will play – if Adrián plays, I'm sure he will have a great game for us.

We have rotated some players in recent matches, which is important to keep the team fresh. We have been doing a great deal of physical work in order to allow us to be competitive at this stage of the season.

Weekend result
Saturday: Atlético 1-0 Villarreal CF (Raúl García 14)

Courtois; Juanfran, Alderweireld, Godín, Filipe Luís; Raúl García, Mario Suárez, Koke, Cristian Rodríguez (Tiago 57); Diego (Sosa 70), Villa (Adrián 61).

• Atlético moved onto 79 points as a result of their weekend victory, meaning they surpassed their tally for the whole of last season (76). The last time they registered more in a Liga campaign they won the title – 87 points in 1995/96.

Team news
Diego Costa limped off 30 minutes into the first leg with a thigh problem; the forward is included in Atleti's matchday squad but Arda Turan misses out with a groin complaint. Javi Manquillo is poised for a comeback after four weeks out with a neck injury.

Gerardo Martino, coach
I don't like to predict what the result might be. What we need to do is to play better than Atlético and to win the game. These teams know each other very well, and they play with completely different styles. All I know is that Barcelona haven't gone ahead in any of the meetings this season. We need to see if we can do that and to try to control the match. Atlético are not the type of team who will allow us to control the game for the entire 90 minutes, but we'll try to do that as it is how we like to play.

We have to prepare thinking that all of Atlético's players will play. Diego Costa is one of those players that coaches like to wait until the last minute to see whether or not they are available.

Lionel Messi is used to competing at the maximum level in every game so when people believe he doesn't, it attracts a lot of attention. When there are several games against the same opponent in which he doesn't score, that can surprise people. Messi has been very important for us in the past four months; he will always be decisive for Barcelona. Opponents always get worried when he is at his best and that's why they do their best to stop him.

The games between the sides have been very even, though we have tended to be superior in the second halves. It won't be easy but if we try to control the game, and score first, then maybe the outcome will be different. There wasn't that much difference between the Barcelona that beat Real Madrid and the one that competed against Atlético last week. The main difference was that we won one of those games and drew the other.

Weekend result
Saturday: Barcelona 3-1 Real Betis Balompié (Messi 15pen 86, Jordi og 67; Rubén Castro 68)
Pinto; Alves, Bartra, Mascherano, Adriano; Xavi (Song 88), Busquets, Iniesta (Fàbregas 79); Alexis Sánchez, Messi, Pedro Rodríguez (Neymar 79).

• Barcelona are seven matches unbeaten, winning six, including Saturday's 3-1 Liga home success in which they missed the suspended Jordi Alba.

Team news
Víctor Valdés is sidelined for the season after tearing knee ligaments and Gerard Piqué suffered a hip fissure in the first leg. Carles Puyol is in Barça's squad despite not yet getting the all-clear to play following a knee issue. Andrés Iniesta is poised to make his 500th appearance for the club.

Match fact
• Atlético have hosted Barcelona 106 times in all competitions with a record of 50 home wins, 33 Barcelona victories and 23 draws.