Diego Simeone has admitted grudging admiration for the stifling tactics employed by José Mourinho against Atlético Madrid and in the impressive Premier League victory at Liverpool, with the Spanish club's coach insisting all that ultimately matters is securing victory.
The La Liga leaders were held to a goalless draw at Vicente Calderón last Tuesday in their first appearance in a semi-final of the European Cup since 1974. The contest was dour with both teams' forte an ability to soak up pressure before striking on the counterattack. Atlético expect more of the same at Stamford Bridge in Wednesday's return.
Yet Simeone expressed surprise at the criticism to which Chelsea have been subjected for their approach to the past two contests at such a critical stage of the campaign.
"I'm a football man and I respect different ways of setting out your team," said Simeone, who will secure Atlético's first domestic title in 18 years if his players overcome Levante and Málaga in their next two league games that precede the final-day meeting with Barcelona. "It's about what's the best way for a specific game or a specific opposition. To defend well is not easy, so I congratulate teams who do that well. To attack well isn't easy, either, so you have to congratulate managers who get their sides doing that.
"Football is constantly evolving. There is no 'best way' to play. It depends on the manager spending time with his players, talking different setups and tactics, different approaches and styles. In the end, the most important thing is that the team, the club, and the institution wins, regardless of how it is achieved. There is no 'one way' to play football. If we all played the same way, it would be very boring. You can play 10 at the back or 10 up front. What matters is the result."
Simeone will bring in the experienced, former Chelsea midfielder Tiago for the suspended Gabi, with Thibaut Courtois, on loan from Chelsea for a third successive season, down to make his first appearance at Stamford Bridge.
"He'll be able to handle the pressure without a problem," Simeone said. "He's working hard to be one of the best goalkeepers in Europe but he's still very young. He's growing and still needs the time to mature.
"But all my players are excited and keen to impress. The confidence is there. Being in a semi-final of the Champions League is already a massive statement but we'll have to put in an enormous effort to get a positive result."
The midfielder Mario Suárez spoke of Atlético's strength being "the group", a collective belief and commitment driving them on, with the vultures – Chelsea principal among them – hoping to prise away players such as Diego Costa at the end of the season. For this team, an opportunity to make history awaits.
"We may not have been playing in the Champions League very often in the last few years but we are an experienced team," Tiago added. "We're confident. I look at my team-mates and I have full confidence in all of them. I see a team fully capable of progressing and ready to take on any team. This is a great opportunity to reach a final, which is every player's dream. Play to our best and we have a chance."