LISBON (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid's defensive solidity and swift counter attacks give them the attributes of a classic 'Italian side', Porto coach Paulo Fonseca said ahead of Tuesday's Champions League Group G clash at the Dragao Stadium.

Beating Atletico will be Porto's toughest challenge this season because of the steel Diego Simeone - a former Lazio and Inter Milan midfielder who was said to "play with a knife between his teeth" - has instilled in his side, he added.

"We face a team which will pose a level of difficulty that we have not yet faced in our domestic league," Fonseca told a news conference. "Atletico are an Italian team playing in the Spanish championship."

Atletico come into the match on a high after stunning Real Madrid 1-0 at the Bernabeu on Saturday for a first success against their bitter city rivals in La Liga this century that kept them level on maximum points with Barcelona at the top.

The victory followed their triumph against Real to win the King's Cup at the same venue in May and under Simeone they have found a winning formula that could see them into the latter stage of Europe's elite club competition.

"Atletico make use of very compact defensive lines and are fast on the counter," Fonseca said. "The scenario I predict is that there will be very little space."

Speaking at a later news conference, Simeone rejected the Italian label, saying he did not want to limit his players to the style of one nation.

"We play to win, we don't play with the identity of any country," said the Argentine, who was in the Atletico side when they last won La Liga in 1996.

MINOR INJURY

Simeone is waiting on the fitness of Uruguay centre back Diego Godin, who sustained a minor injury in the Real game.

He will definitely be without suspended striker Diego Costa, who scored the winner against Real and has been their stand-out player this term.

"He (Godin) is going to train a bit and then we'll see," Simeone said. "We still have some doubts but we'll see how he progresses and then assess whether he can play."

Fonseca warned that with players like Spain forward David Villa in the lineup Atletico remain dangerous opponents even without the in-form Costa.

"We will have to be patient and balanced to beat this very strong Atletico," he said. "We can't give the ball away easily. If Atletico are able to apply their counter that will wear us out, that's something we don't want."

Fonseca has thrived since taking over at the helm of the Portuguese champions in June.

They are two points clear of Sporting in the domestic league and made their Champions League experience count in beating debutants Austria Vienna 1-0 away in their opener, when Atletico won 3-1 at home to Russian side Zenit St Petersburg.

(Additional reporting by Iain Rogers in Madrid, writing by Daniel Alvarenga in Lisbon, editing Tony Goodson)

 

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