Diego Simeone has made a fresh defence of the tactics which allowed Atletico Madrid to dethrone Liverpool of their Champions League title.
The two sides were drawn together in the last 16 of this season’s competition after holders Liverpool won Group E and Atletico finished runners-up to Juventus in Group D.
Jurgen Klopp’s men had lifted the trophy in 2019 after beating Spurs 2-0 in the final following an incredible comeback against Barcelona in the semi-finals, the Reds losing 3-0 in Spain before claiming a dramatic 4-0 win in the return at Anfield.
And they had also reached the final in 2018, enjoying a thrilling campaign before losing 3-1 to Real Madrid.
But their hopes of a third straight appearance in the final of Europe’s elite competition were wrecked by Atletico and the canny tactics of boss Simeone.
The La Liga side edged the first leg 1-0 in their home stadium and were up against it for long periods at Anfield but rode the punches and hit Liverpool with a series of counter-attacks, stunning the home crowd with a 3-2 victory in extra-time to win the tie 4-2 on aggregate.
A clearly unhappy Klopp said later: “I don’t understand with the quality they have that they play this kind of football. I don’t understand that. But the winner is always right. When I see players like Llorente, Koke, Saul… they could play proper football but they stand deep in their own half and have counter-attacks.
“I realise I am a really bad loser, especially when the boys put such an effort in against world class players on the other side who defend with two rows of four.”
However, Simeone was unrepentant in his use of tactics and the no-nonsense Argentine coach has reaffirmed his thoughts during an interview with AS.
“Football is like boxing because you have to know when it is time to attack,” said Simeone.
“At Atletico, we know the virtues we have as a team. The example is when we played against Liverpool, a tremendous team, we knew that we could hurt him.
“When they talk about how we were lucky, I think of a team that lost 2-0 and scored three goals. That is not luck. The games must be valued as a whole.”
Simeone and Atletico are yet to reap their rewards following their unforgettable night at Anfield, with the tournament suspended due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
As yet, their Champions League quarter-final opponents are unknown but having done a job on Liverpool, they’ll be confident of going all the way and reaching the final for the third time in seven years.
They lost the 2014 and 2016 finals to local rivals Real.