Mon, 14 Oct 2019

Madrid - Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone on Tuesday hailed Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo as a "beast in front of goal" ahead of the two sides' Champions League group-stage meeting.

The 34-year-old Ronaldo scored a memorable hat-trick to help the Italian giants overturn a two-goal first-leg deficit against Atletico in last season's Champions League last 16.

The two teams meet again in their campaign opener at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday.

"It's difficult to prepare something against a player like him," said Simeone of Ronaldo, who has scored an all-time record 126 Champions League goals.

"He is a beast in front of goal. He has tremendous records.

"Any situation with him near the area causes danger and needs attention. He isn't easy to control.

"He's good in the air, has a good shot, good change of pace... Are we going to talk about everything that he has?

"We have already suffered (against him)."

Ronaldo is playing his second season for Juventus and is hoping to win the Champions League with a third different club after his 2008 triumph with Manchester United and four titles while at Real Madrid.

After last season's surprise quarter-final loss to Ajax, Massimiliano Allegri has been replaced as Juve coach by Maurizio Sarri.

"We are going to play against a strong team, which has a lot of personality," added Simeone.

"Beyond the coach, Juventus have always had a very competitive, strong team, throughout their history."

Juventus are widely considered as one of the favourites to lift the Champions League trophy this season, but Sarri was quick to play down his side's chances.

"Italian football can't be considered as the favourite, because unfortunately that's not realistic, there are other, more competitive leagues," said the former Chelsea boss.

Atletico fell to their first defeat of the new La Liga season last weekend at Real Sociedad after starting the campaign with three straight wins.

They also saw key players Antoine Griezmann and Diego Godin leave in the transfer window, although Atletico did make Joao Felix one of the five most expensive signings in history by paying Benfica €126 million for his services.

"They (Atletico) are one of the teams that can think about winning (the Champions League)," Sarri said.

"Atletico have lost an incredible player (Griezmann), but have signed another (Felix) who is equally as good."

Sarri also revealed that midfielder Miralem Pjanic was available after suffering a knock in Juventus' weekend draw at Fiorentina.

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