MADRID (Reuters) – Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone has described Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo as a goalscoring animal ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League Group D game at home to the Italians.
Ronaldo has scored 25 times against Atletico in 33 games and played a huge role in eliminating Simeone’s side from last season’s competition, scoring a hat-trick in a 3-0 win in the last-16 to overturn a 2-0 deficit from the first leg.
“Cristiano is an animal in front of goal, he can create danger any time he gets near the area,” Simeone told a news conference on Tuesday, praising the Portuguese who frequently tormented his side in a nine-year spell with Real Madrid.
Ronaldo has proved particularly deadly against Atletico in the Champions League, helping to beat them in two knockout ties and the 2014 and 2016 finals with Real as well as being responsible for their exit last season, his first with Juve.
“He is so difficult to keep under control because he has everything. He is superb in the air, he is good with both feet, he can get free of his marker easily and he has a deadly shot,” the Argentine coach added.
“We’ve suffered against him in the past and lost against him but we’ve also won against him.”
Atletico defender Jose Gimenez said the key to stopping Ronaldo was to limit what his team mates can do.
“He is a great striker but for the ball to get to him it has to go through other players,” he said.
“The fewer touches he gets of the ball, the better, so we’ll try and do a good job in the middle of the pitch between the lines of midfield and attack.”
Atletico began the La Liga season by storm, winning their opening three games, but they entertain the Italian champions reeling from a 2-0 defeat to Real Sociedad.
Juventus also had a disappointing weekend, dropping points for the first time under new coach Maurizio Sarri with a 0-0 draw at Fiorentina.
“We did not play our best game against Fiorentina but we have already moved on, and tomorrow’s game is an important test for us, just like every Champions League game is,” said Juve defender Leonardo Bonucci.
“We go into the game with a lot of enthusiasm and energy because playing in the Champions League is what you dream about. Atletico will be up for a battle tomorrow, but so will we.”
Atletico’s former Juventus forward Alvaro Morata is an injury doubt for the game along with team mate Thomas Partey.
Juve are likely to be without midfielder Miralem Pjanic through injury, while Douglas Costa, Mattia De Sciglio and Giorgio Chiellini are also ruled out.
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ken Ferris)