09.04.2024 18:08 h

Dortmund 'hardest' team Atletico could face: Simeone

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone hailed Champions League quarter-final opponents Borussia Dortmund as the "hardest" team his side could have drawn on Tuesday.

The Germans, fifth in the Bundesliga, are widely seen as the weakest team left in the competition but Atletico coach Simeone disagreed.

Atletico host Dortmund in the first leg at the Metropolitano stadium on Wednesday, bidding to reach the semi-finals for the first time since 2017.

"Borussia are the hardest opponent," Simeone argued at a news conference.

"They have a lot of good qualities, they've not lost away from home in four months, and they are great on the counter-attack.

"They are very strong in both boxes, and they are the most intense team in the last eight of the competition."

Dortmund, victorious in 1997, reached the final four most recently in 2013, when they finished as runners-up to rivals Bayern Munich.

Simeone, one victory away from 50 as a coach in the Champions League, and Atletico have never won the competition, and it is their last realistic hope of silverware this season with the team fourth in La Liga.

However Atletico defender Axel Witsel said he and his team-mates were not thinking beyond Wednesday's clash.

"We think like Cholo (Simeone), game by game, that's the most important thing, you can't think beyond that," said the Belgian international.

Witsel, who arrived at Atletico in 2022 after spending four seasons at Dortmund, agreed with his coach about the visitors' potent threat.

"It's a very good team, I played there in four very good years for me," he said.

"They press a lot, they have (Karim) Adeyemi, (Jadon) Sancho, very fast players up front."

Dortmund coach Edin Terzic responded to Simeone's flattery with praise of his own for Atletico.

"The (play) that makes Atletico Madrid so successful is well known," he told a news conference.

"They have implemented a new art of defending. It's not easy for any team in the world here."

The coach also said he wanted Dortmund to prove they are a team that can reach the final stages of the Champions League, after various players have departed in search of success at other clubs.

Sancho left for Manchester United in 2021 but returned to Dortmund on loan in January, while Jude Bellingham joined Real Madrid last summer.

Manchester City signed striker Erling Haaland and defender Manuel Akanji from the Bundesliga outfit, both in 2022.

"Some of the lads have left us in recent years to try their luck in the Champions League elsewhere," said Terzic.

"We now want to show that you can reach the semi-finals of the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund."

Terzic also said midfielder Emre Can was "a little ill" but expected he would be ready to face Atletico.

The coach praised on-loan Manchester United winger Sancho for his hard work in recent weeks.

"Jadon has regained more and more self-confidence through hard work in training and in games," added Terzic.

"He is getting better and better. And what many people don't even notice is how diligently he has been defending recently."