INTERVIEW | 01/05/2017"We know how strong Atletico are. It's going to be a great tie to watch and very difficult to play in", said the Brazilian.
In an interview with the official UEFA media, Casemiro reviewed Real Madrid’s progression in this season’s Champions League and spoke about the derby to be played on Tuesday (8:45pm CEST) in the semi-finals of the competition: "We know how strong Atletico Madrid are. It's going to be a great tie to watch and very difficult to play in". He also highlighted the role that the Madrid fans will play: "They are an extraordinary asset in these games".
The semi-final against Atletico is approaching and it’s impossible not to think about the final in 2016. What memories do you have of that match?
It’s the most important title in my career because I felt that I was part of the victory. I don’t have words to describe it but each match is a different story. We know how strong Atletico are and it’ll be a very difficult tie because they play good football and have quality players. If I'm not mistaken, they’ve been in three of the last four semi-finals, so they deserves a lot of respect. We must go in to the tie with humility. The first match being at home will be very important and we have to get a good result. It's going to be a great tie to watch and very difficult to play in.
Would you rather play against a team that doesn’t know Real Madrid so well or is it a positive because you also know Atletico?
When you play against Bayern, Atletico or Juventus, with the technology around today you end up familiarising yourself with the style of their players. Playing against Atletico is different because it’s a derby, with the added impact that it has. But for the players it’s a tie just like any other.
Real Madrid have been stronger in the knockout matches against Napoli and Bayern than in the Group Stage, where for example they had trouble against Legia and Borussia. Why do you think this happened?
I would put it down to the fans in the knockouts. They made the difference against Napoli and both at home and away against Bayern. I think the crowd was incredible. They deserve to be recognised as well. They are always there, but you notice them more in the Champions League matches. They are an extraordinary asset in these qualifying matches.
What’s the experience like for the players on Champions League nights at the Bernabéu and the welcome from the fans when the team bus arrives at the stadium?
I would like to ask the fans to keep that tradition going in the match against Atletico because we feel they are with us, even before the game starts, it give us energy and inspires us. When you see the fans supporting you with passion, cheering you on the bus, it gives you an extra boost.
At Real Madrid, your defensive effort is highly valued, but you are also scoring goals like against Napoli. What do you enjoy the most?
Midfielders must be complete players. You can’t just be there to break things up, you have to build play too, play good long passes and get in to shooting positions. The midfielder is the heart of the team, so you have to be constantly evolving and you can’t focus on just one thing. If you have a good midfield you have a good team and I always try to improve.
What is it like working with Zidane? What is it like working with a coach who as a player was a worldwide star?
He wasn’t just a star, he was also my idol. He was a player I always admired. I turned on the television wanting to see him play. When he was Ancelotti's assistant, he was a friend rather than a coach. Now it's different because he's the coach. Besides being the coach he is very respectful and a great friend for us. Thanks to his experience as a player he knows how we think. One of the best things about Zidane is how he behaves off the field, because he treats players very well.
I want to ask you about Marcelo. What does it mean to you having a fellow countryman at the club, especially considering that he was also very young when he came to the club?
Not many people know this, but I knew Marcelo before coming to Real Madrid. I knew him from the national team. When I arrived he was one of the people who helped me to settle in, even when I was at Castilla. He welcomed me and taught me many things. I love Marcelo. If we talk about football I would say that he is the best fullback and a player with incredible quality, he surprises me in every training session. But I also admire him as a person. He advises me and I try to imitate him off the field because he is a footballer who is always focused on the club. He’s been here for ten years for a reason.