Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone has called Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo a “goal animal” ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League opener between the sides.
Ronaldo, Real Madrid’s all-time goal scorer, scored a hat trick against Atletico to help Juve overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit and reach the quarterfinals of the competition last season.
“It’s difficult to play against him,” Simeone told a news conference when asked about Ronaldo. “He is a goal animal. He has achieved tremendous records. He has good aerial play, he has a great shot, he’s able to find spaces … any situation close to the area, he generates danger. We have suffered against him.”
Limiting Ronaldo will be Atletico’s priority.
“He is a great striker, he has shown it in the past and continues to do so,” Atletico defender Jose Maria Gimenez said. “But we are not focusing solely on Cristiano. In order for the ball to reach him, it first has to go through other players.
“You give Ronaldo half a chance and he scores. We have to limit him. The important thing is that we play well in all of our lines.”
Simeone does not want to rate Atletico’s chances in the competition and said time will tell how far his team can go.
“I always focus on the day to day but football is always football,” he said. “There are teams that arrive better prepared to this competition but then it’s what you do on the pitch that counts.
“We saw it last season with Ajax [who reached the semifinals]. The Champions League is dangerous. Any rival you face can generate problems. Tomorrow we are going to play against a very strong team, that shows a lot of personality. We will be better if we think we can hurt them. What we want is to improve and grow in the competition. We want the new players to adapt.”
Joao Felix is one of the new players that arrived at Atletico this summer for a club-record €126m from Benfica.
Asked if the Portuguese winger is under pressure to deliver, Gimenez said: “I was the same age when I joined Atletico as Joao Felix is now. You can see his quality and he is an important player for us. You can see that he wants to grow and you feel envious that he’s only 19.
“The future is in his hands. But the pressure is not on him but on those that have been here the longest. We have to help him because he is young. We will try to advise him because he already has the quality.”