Simeone warns Atletico against Vinicius ahead of Copa del Rey derby

    Diego Simeone has warned Atlético Madrid against focusing all their energy on stopping Vinicius Junior in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals against Real Madrid.

    Vinicius is enjoying another outstanding campaign from Carlo Ancelotti’s men, leading his teammates in goals scored (16-11 goals, 5 assists) in all competitions, aiming to repeat last year’s double in La Liga and the Champions League.

    The last Madrid derby was marred by racist slurs directed at the winger, who responded by dancing in front of Atlético fans after the Creamy took the lead in a 2-1 win.

    The Brazil international will look to take Real Madrid to his first Copa del Rey semi-final since 2019 on Thursday, but Simeone realizes he won’t be the only threat Atlético will have to deal with.

    “They have some very important players, with only one missing,” he said at a pre-match press conference on Wednesday.

    “We think of Real Madrid as a team, they have a lot of very good tools to compete, we will try to play the game the way we want to hurt them.

    “This is a competitive team and when they decide to compete, they do very well. We must show our strength, enthusiasm and desire to play an important game.”

    Atlético have won five of their seven games since the World Cup, trailing only Barcelona in that series, and Simeone is pleased with his team’s progress.

    “I see us better since we came back from the World Cup, we have more offensive opportunities to create danger and we work very well in the group,” he said.

    “I see a group committed and enthusiastic and we are going to play an important game, draw against a very strong team with a coach that I greatly admire.”

    Thursday’s game will be Real’s first at the Santiago Bernabéu since a 2-1 win over Cadiz in November, and Ancelotti is hoping a return to their iconic stadium will give his side a boost.

    “Maybe we are the favorites because we play at home, but both teams have motivation and enthusiasm,” said the Italian.

    “The illusion of returning home, I think, will help us. Playing in front of our fans will help us. Returning to the Bernabéu will be special.”

    Asked if the additional motivation was to effectively end Atlético’s trophy hopes this season, Ancelotti added: “We don’t think about it. This is an important opportunity to reach the semi-finals of an important competition, nothing more.

    “We take into account the strength of the opponent and we know that it takes a lot [to win]. It’s a special game and it will be interesting because Atlético are progressing.”

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