Diego Simeone has admitted he needs to learn to “shut up” to help his team defeat Arsenal in their Europa League semi-final second leg in Madrid tonight.
The temperamental Argentine coach was sent off for running on to the pitch to protest against a decision after his team had been reduced to 10 men in last week’s 1-1 draw in London.
That means tonight he is banned from the touchline he loves to prowl from first to last minute attempting to influence his players, opponents, and officials alike.
But he has no option but to keep quiet and let his players and staff do his talking for him now.
“I’ll take it badly,” Simeone admitted.” I’m sad about this situation and I’ll have to improve. I better shut up. “
Replacing him pitch-side will be his larger than life assistant Mano Burgos, a giant bearded former goalkeeper who is a ringer for English Seventies wrestling star Giant Haystacks.
In many ways he is even more intimidating than his belligerent boss.
“He knows what we need to do and how to get the message across so I am not concerned,” the Atletico Madrid boss insisted.
Second in the La Liga table, former Cham,pions League finalists Atletico Madrid have won this competition twice in recent seasons and are favourites to progress after Antoine Griezmann cancelled out fellow French countryman Alex Lacazette’s goal with a late striker last week.
But Simeone, who has been training his side with 10 men in case they get a player sent off again, has told his men to expect a massive battle.
He explained: “They have great players and a great coach, with players between the lines like Mesut Ozil.
“They have a lot of speed in the final third. On their most important days they always manage to play better. Their wide players give them depth, it’s a good team. To get here you have to be very good and Arsenal are.”
The match also marks Arsene Wenger’s 250th and possibly final European tie as a manager before he leaves Arsenal at the end of the season.
Simeone added: “We are not thinking about the closing season of Arsene — only about what we need.
“We need to to see a full stadium, the excitement of our players, to see energy among the players, that’s what matters to us.”
Former Chelsea striker Diego Costa is the man Arsenal fear, however, and his return to fitness could not have come at a worse time for Wenger. The Spain forward also has a suspect temper, but he will receive special last-minute instructions before he faces his old foes.
“I have not talked to him yet,” Simeone admitted. “He lives off his power and in every match his contribution is huge.”
It promises to be a lively night — on and off the pitch.
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