Atletico Madrid are ready
to throw off the gloves and get ugly if that is what it takes to
grind out a result against bitter city rivals Real for the first
time in more than a decade, according to coach Gregorio Manzano.
Claudio Ranieri was the last man in charge at the Spanish
capital's second club to savour victory over Real, when former
Netherlands striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink scored twice in a
3-1 away triumph in 1999.
Although their chances of causing an upset at the Bernabeu
on Saturday appear remote, with Jose Mourinho's Real
flying high at the top of La Liga and on a run of 12 straight
wins in all competitions, Manzano was in combative mood in an
interview published in As sports daily on Wednesday.
"Playing attractive, open and joyous football does not help
you in the slightest if in the end you don't achieve your
objective, which is to win," Manzano said.
"That's what we have to do. No joyous, open or attractive
play," the 55-year-old added.
"We have to play a closed, ugly, harsh game, not devoid of
quality but not being little sisters of pity either."
Known in Spain as 'the professor', Manzano has had a
troubled start to his latest stint in charge at Atletico, with
the club down in ninth place in La Liga and their notoriously
impatient fans growing increasingly restive.
The 2010 Europa League winners offloaded Sergio Aguero and
Diego Forlan in the close-season and brought in players
including Colombia striker Radamel Falcao, who may miss
Saturday's game due to injury, midfielders Diego of Brazil and
Arda Turan of Turkey and Spain Under-21 forward Adrian.
The team has sparked into life on occasion but has yet to
find the consistency that could see them challenging for a
qualification spot in the Champions League for next season.
Manzano said Saturday's opponents Real were starting to gel
more as a team in Mourinho's second season in charge and were
relying less on swift counter-attacks.
"This season Real Madrid have improved in the way they apply
pressure in their opponent's half," he said.
"To build a team you need sufficient time, to adjust the
pieces so that everyone becomes part of one machine.
"What we want at Atletico is to have this time to fit all
the pieces together."
The top three are all playing in Madrid on Saturday, with
second-placed Barcelona, who are three points behind Real, at
Getafe and Valencia, four points further back in third,
at Rayo Vallecano.
Barca secured top spot in Champions League Group H with a
3-2 success at AC Milan on Wednesday and coach Pep Guardiola
said they were relieved to have done so with a game to spare
given the packed nature of the fixtures calendar in December.
Barca take on Real at the Bernabeu in the opening 'Clasico'
of the season on December 10 before heading off to compete in the
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