Diego Simeone confirms Joao Felix will start against Chelsea as Atletico Madrid seek to overturn 1-0 first leg deficit in Champions League tie as he urges 21-year-old to prove he is a match-winner
- Atletico Madrid must overturn a 1-0 deficit in second leg against Chelsea
- Manager Diego Simeone confirmed Joao Felix would be involved from the start
- Simeone has often played Portuguese star off the bench in recent league games
- He urged Felix to prove he can define biggest Champions League matches
- Simeone said Atletico will be encouraged by beating Liverpool last season
Olivier Giroud’s overhead kick in the first leg in Bucharest handed Chelsea a precious advantage three weeks ago but Simeone will go all-out to make the Champions League quarter-finals.
Portuguese star Felix only came off the bench at half-time in Atletico’s LaLiga match with Getafe on Saturday and couldn’t force a winner in a goalless draw.
Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone pictured in training ahead of the Chelsea second leg
He wants Portuguese star Joao Felix to prove himself a match-winner against Chelsea
There were also suggestions of a rift between manager and player when Felix put his finger to his lips after scoring in Atletico’s 2-0 win over Villarreal recently.
But, sitting alongside the 21-year-old in Tuesday’s preview press conference, Simeone said he ‘will play from the beginning’ in London after several recent games in which he has started on the bench.
He said: ‘Joao, as we have always mentioned, is a really important player.
The shushing gesture made by Joao Felix after scoring at Villarreal sparked suggestions of a rift between him and Simeone but the player insisted it was targeted at a team-mate
‘Joao is going to play from the beginning. He has had a really high-quality start to the season. He is the talk of our team and we need this player.
‘All footballers have different stages throughout their professional career, especially when they are young, where they dip.
‘But as you heard from him there is nothing more needed from his personality.
‘Ahead of the Champions League and LaLiga matches, we have to ensure that as a 21-year-old that he has that will that he needs to have to reach the point where he needs to be.’
Felix shows his frustration during the first leg, which Chelsea won 1-0 in Bucharest last month
Felix continues to maintain he is happy at Atletico, however, and insisted he has no troubles defending as part of Simeone’s demanding tactical system.
‘I am happy here, my family is fine, I am fine; I am fine with the club and as players there are moments that are not so good but they can be overcome,’ said Felix.
‘Ever since I was at Benfica and ever since I’ve been with the national team, I have to defend and I have to attack as well.
‘That’s what I need to do here too. Without attitude, talent is not good enough.
‘My relationship with the manager is good, he always tries to help me, as normal. We need to help each other.’
Olivier Giroud’s spectacular overhead kick settled the first leg in Romania three weeks ago
Simeone was asked if Atletico may need to rediscover the spirit that saw them overcome Liverpool in last season’s last-16 having fallen behind in extra time at Anfield.
‘We are facing a team that is doing very well. They have not lost since the arrival of the coach [Thomas Tuchel],’ he said.
‘They are playing very well. Tomorrow we only need to win and that is what we will seek.’