MADRID: Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola has insisted his side face as stern a task in their Champions League semi-final against Atletico Madrid as in their failed attempts at this stage in the past two seasons.
Guardiola, whose side face Atletico at the Vicente Calderon in their semi-final first leg on Wednesday, will leave Bayern at the end of the season to join Manchester City.
However, before he does so he has a final chance to leave his legacy in Germany by winning the Bavarians’ sixth European Cup.
Bayern’s attempt to win the Champions League has faltered in embarrassing fashion against Spanish opposition in the semi-finals in the past two seasons as they conceded five goals against both Real Madrid and Barcelona.
However, with Atletico in their second semi-final in three years and level at the top of La Liga with Barcelona, Guardiola believes Diego Simeone’s men deserve the same level of respect.
“The biggest title that Atletico have won with Simeone and his coaching staff is to be compared with Barca and Real Madrid and that in Europe they are as feared as Barca or Madrid,” said Guardiola, who won 14 trophies in four years with Barca between 2008 and 2012.
“Any team can win one year, but continuity and continuing to win year after year is the most difficult thing in sport and that is what they have achieved.”
Bayern are just one win away from sealing a third Bundesliga title in as many years under Guardiola and the Spaniard said City will get a better coach next season for his experiences in Munich, even if he doesn’t deliver the Champions League.
“In three years we have made it to the semi-finals. From what I have experienced in Munich if we don’t win the Champions League the work won’t be complete,” added Guardiola.
“I am very lucky to have experienced what I have in Germany for three years.
“I am calmer, a better coach and I have enjoyed it a lot.”
Bayern captain Philipp Lahm believes the German champions must score away in the first leg having failed to do so in Spain in the past two years.
“We know that in the last two semi-final away legs we didn’t score and tomorrow that is what we have to do.”
Despite their huge upturn in fortunes under Simeone in the past four and a half years, Atletico are still looking for their first ever Champions League triumph.
Atletico’s defensive resistance proved too strong for Barcelona’s star front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar as they dumped the defending champions out in the quarterfinals.
Simeone admitted that Bayern’s variety of attacking options offers a different threat, but is confident his side can overcome the odds once more.
“They have different characteristics that make them even stronger,” said Simeone.
“It is clear the one that wins isn’t the one with most soldiers, but the one that utilizes them better.”
And Simeone dismissed the suggestion that Atletico can enjoy the tie more with the pressure firmly on Bayern to finally deliver the Champions League under Guardiola.
“We can only think about what we are playing for and the big opportunity in front of us,” added Simeone.
“We are the ones that compete and we have to concentrate on just one thing; which is to win.”