Atletic Madrid coach Diego Simeone hopes his star striker Luis Suarez can use his goalscoring “gift” when his side meet Chelsea in the Champions League.
Suarez is enjoying a fine season with Atletico, scoring 16 goals in 24 games in all competitions since joining from Barcelona. The 34-year-old is La Liga’s joint top goalscorer with former teammate Lionel Messi.
However he is without a goal or assist in four Champions League games this season. He has scored in each of his previous seven campaigns in the competition.
Atletico coach Simeone said the Uruguayan provided his team with a huge boost.
“Luis’ presence generates hierarchy, generates confidence in our team and obviously a lot of attention in rivals because history joins a footballer that has a strong gift regarding his relationship with the goal,” he told a news conference.
“So, I hope tomorrow we can play a good match as a team. And I insist about Chelsea, it is a great team and the new manager, who is very good, is making Chelsea play even better.”
Due to coronavirus restrictions, the first leg of the last 16 tie will be played at the National Arena in Bucharest on Tuesday night.
Simeone is wary of Chelsea, who are unbeaten in their seven games since Thomas Tuchel took over in January.
“We are facing a great team and the tie is very even,” he said.
Tuchel will be looking to quell Suarez, who he called a “natural-born striker”.
“He has the certain mentality that only strikers have,” the Chelsea coach said.
“This mentality to show his will, intensity and anger to score and score and score and is never satisfied.”
Chelsea will be without defender Thiago Silva for the match, but midfielders Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic are fit again and could feature.