'Stay true to yourself' was the mantra as FC Barcelona vowed not to compromise on their ideals, while Diego Simeone urged Club Atlético de Madrid to fight fire with fire.
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FC Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino vowed to remain true to his philosophy when Liga leaders Club Atlético de Madrid visit Camp Nou for Tuesday's UEFA Champions League last-eight opener. Counterpart Diego Simeone was preaching from the same book ahead of the sides' first ever European meeting, adding: "At Atlético we are faithful to our club's style." Though the sight of Diego Costa pulling up in training on Monday evening will have dampened his ardour.
Gerardo Martino, coach
Atlético have been doing great things this season and last season as well. They are alive in two competitions and seem very confident and strong. In our three games against them, they have proved to be very tough opponents.
We have to win and not concede any goals, that's obvious when there's a return leg. The first thing we need to do is to win because then the onus is on our opponents. I always think that if you weren't courageous, you wouldn't be where you are now. You need to be brave to play the way we do, so you can rest assured we will be brave tomorrow.
When a coach has an idea, he needs to field the players in the right positions for it. We know we sacrifice Neymar on the right side. We analyse such things after the match rather than before, but players of Neymar's calibre can play anywhere in attack.
We always have to look at the dangers every opponent presents. We knew Manchester City were dangerous attacking down the wings, the same as Real Madrid. Sometimes you have a situation where you know where they can hit you, but you also know where you can hit them.
Saturday: RCD Espanyol 0-1 Barcelona (Messi 77pen)
Pinto; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Xavi; Pedro (Iniesta 78), Fàbregas (Roberto 90), Neymar (Alexis Sánchez 78); Messi.
• Messi's eighth goal in his last four Liga appearances – and his first at Espanyol's Estadi Cornellà-El Prat – helped second-placed Barça remain within a point of leaders Atlético.
Goalkeeper Víctor Valdés is out for the remainder of the season with a serious knee injury; José Manuel Pinto has been included in the squad following a bout of lumbago. Alex Song missed the weekend win with a bruised left calf, and while Jonathan Dos Santos and Carles Puyol are absent with knee injuries, the latter has been included in a 22-man squad despite not being given the all-clear to play. As for Pedro Rodríguez, he trained as usual after recovering from gastroenteritis.
Diego Simeone, coach
I think tomorrow's match is the toughest of all our meetings with Barcelona. Barça are back to their best and tomorrow we will see that version of them. They will want to decide the tie tomorrow, not in the second leg. We will have to make the most of our chances. If we say we're favourites, we're cocky. I just say we're here to compete. This will be a great tie and tomorrow's match is very important.
We have our own identity and I am going to stick to my team and honour the history of our club. I don't think people should be too hasty with Barcelona and Gerardo Martino, saying Barcelona won't win the title. They can win all three trophies. Barcelona are playing very well, they played well in Madrid and they are very used to these games.
As I said before, we have two Argentinian coaches in the quarter-finals. Martino is at a big club that has enjoyed great success; at Atlético we are faithful to our club's style and I don't think I can add an Argentinian touch to that. The style of Barcelona is different, they like having possession whereas we have our own weapons. We shall see who is the stronger team.
Saturday: Athletic Club 1-2 Atlético (Muniain 6; Diego Costa 22, Koke 55)
Courtois; Juanfran, Miranda, Godín, Filipe Luís; Gabi, Mario Suárez, Raúl García (Rodríguez 82), Sosa (Arda Turan 57), Koke; Diego Costa (Villa 90+1).
• Pacesetters Atlético have won their last five Spanish top-flight games. Their 76-point haul equals their tally for the whole of last season. The last time they registered more in a Liga campaign, they won the championship with 87 points in 1995/96.
Raúl García is suspended for the first leg and Javi Manquillo is sidelined with a neck injury, but the biggest worry for Simeone is Diego Costa, who pulled up in Monday evening's training session with a knee problem. "The medics will evaluate his condition but I reckon it is unlikely that he'll play tomorrow," Simeone told Spanish TV.
Barcelona drew 0-0 at Atlético in the Liga on 11 January. They also met over two legs in August for the Spanish Super Cup, the Azulgrana prevailing on away goals after drawing 1-1 in Madrid (Neymar replying to David Villa to open his account in Spain) and 0-0 at Camp Nou.