English sides must wake up – Simeone

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Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City were eliminated at the Champions League last 16 stage, and Everton were dumped out of the Europa League in the previous round.

Simeone, who takes Atletico to rivals Real Madrid for a Champions League quarter-final second leg, thinks this season’s failure should spark a response from the Premier League’s top clubs.

Writing in his exclusive column for Goal.com, he said: ‘I’m surprised there are no English clubs left in the Champions League.

‘English football has enormous potential with its footballers and financial clout. The fact that there is no English team left in the last eight of the Champions League or in the Europa League is a wake-up call for the Premier League to look at why it is that, despite their great economic power and with all the many great footballers playing in England, Chelsea are so far ahead of everyone else and why they have no teams left in Europe.’

Simeone believes that Spain is still home to the two best teams in Europe — tonight’s opponents Real Madrid, who have home advantage after a 0-0 draw at the Vicente Calderon last week, and Barcelona.

‘For us at Atletico, we are competing against two teams with the obligation of winning the Champions League,’ he said. ‘At the very least, Madrid and Barcelona are among the last eight in Europe every season and usually the last four, so for Atletico to win La Liga last season was a tremendous achievement.’

Carlo Ancelotti, meanwhile, resisted the opportunity to get his excuses in early ahead of the game at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Despite facing Atletico without four members of his first team, he said: ‘I have the best squad in the world and it is more important to me who is playing than who is not’.

Gareth Bale is Real’s biggest absentee. He was vital for them in last season’s run-in, scoring in their quarter-final win over Borussia Dortmund and in the final against Atletico Madrid. Sportsmail understands he remains committed to staying at the club beyond this summer, despite interest from Manchester United, and he was desperate to play tonight.

Instead he is in a race to be fit for the semi-finals at the start of next month, should Real qualify.

Bale misses the second leg because of a strain to his left calf, while Karim Benzema and Luka Modric have knee injuries. The latter has been ruled out for up to six weeks after sustaining ligament damage in Saturday’s win against Malaga.

Left back Marcelo, meanwhile, is suspended as Ancelotti aims to end a seven-game winless streak against Simeone.

He is expected to play Pepe in midfield alongside Toni Kroos and Isco, leaving Cristiano Ronaldo in attack with James Rodriguez and Javier Hernandez or Jese.

If Hernandez gets the nod, it will be his first big-game start since joining from Manchester United on loan in September. – Daily Mail

Original source: English sides must wake up - Simeone

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