'The atmosphere at the Vicente Calderón is special'
No Bayern pro knows Atlético better than the four Spaniards in the squad. Xabi Alonso has encountered the Rojiblancos 22 times, winning 15 and losing three. The former Real Madrid pro has only played more often against FC Barcelona. Javi Martínez is FCB's top goalscorer against Atlético, scoring three goals in 13 matches that ended in five wins and eight defeats. Thiago boasts a perfect record of two victories in two matches, whereas Juan Bernat has yet to win against Atlético, drawing two and losing two.
Naturally, the Spanish-Bavarian quartet are fired up for the Champions League semi-final against Atlético. Prior to Wednesday's match in Madrid, Alonso, Martínez & Co talked about their opponents' qualities and what awaits the Reds at the Estadio Vicente Calderón.
How difficult is the challenge against Atlético?
Martínez: "Atlético are the team against which I least wanted to play. They're hard to beat, for me personally they're the toughest potential semi-final opponents."
Thiago: "Two teams on a par face off. Atlético can't keep up with Barcelona and Real when it comes to finances, but they've done a fantastic job with regard to results. They've developed an idea and they pursue it consistently. Now they're in the race for the titles in the Spanish league and in the Champions League. We're in for a tough match in which we'll have to go to our limits."
Alonso: "I think it's going to be an evenly balanced match. Atlético are among the European footballing elite. Two very intense matches await us. If we're not 100 percent ready it'll be difficult to go through."
Bernat: "Atlético are very strong opponents and in good form. Nobody expected them to knock out Barcelona. It's going to be a tough challenge. But we want to go to Milan. That's our goal, and we're going to do everything to achieve it."
Atlético have conceded only 26 goals in 51 competitive fixtures this season. Is it defence that makes Atlético so strong?
Alonso: "The defence is clearly one of their strengths, but it's not only that. Atlético know how to play football and are very dangerous in attack. They win possession by aggressive pressing and then play very directly, quickly and vertically towards goal. We have to be clever. We know that we'll play at least 180 minutes, but we won't play for a draw in Madrid. It's our mentality to go for a win."
Martínez: "They're one of the best European teams in defence. All eleven men on the pitch play their part in it, from the strikers to Oblak between the posts. They're dangerous on the break with quick players like Torres, Griezmann or Carrasco. They have players with good passing qualities like Gabi, Koke and Saul. Atlético play very aggressively. But you don't make the Champions League semi-finals only with aggressive play. It's a mixture of aggression, focus, good play and mental strength which makes them so strong. They're a coherent team. We have to give 100 percent, full throttle!"
Bernat: "Their great strength is their team spirit. They defend as a team and are very dangerous on the break. They're able to do great damage with their quick players."
What awaits FC Bayern at the Estadio Vicente Calderón?
Alonso: "It's always difficult at the Vicente Calderón. The atmosphere is cracking and special. The Atlético fans are very enthusiastic, very active. They support their team with lots of passion."
Thiago: "We know it's going to be a very difficult match at the Vicente Calderón. In terms of atmosphere it's one of the best arenas in the whole of Europe. We have to focus on our play there, we mustn't lose control if we're to achieve a good result for the return."