Atletico play down Liverpool travel issues

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The Independent Football

Atletico Madrid midfielder Jose Manuel Jurado does not believe Liverpool will show any ill-effects from their gruelling road trip to Spain when the teams clash in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final tomorrow night.

Due to the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland that has seen most of Europe's airspace closed in recent days, Liverpool were forced to make an epic 24-hour trip to Madrid that will see the Reds largely travel by land.

Rafael Benitez's side started the 1,300-mile journey yesterday - the day after facing West Ham in the Barclays Premier League at Anfield - with a train to London, followed by the Eurostar to Paris, where they spent the night.

Today Liverpool are scheduled to take another train to Bordeaux before making a short flight to the Spanish capital, where they are due to arrive at lunchtime.

It is not the best of preparations for the five-time European champions, but Jurado doubts the trip will cause any discernible problems for Liverpool tomorrow night.

"I'm sorry that they have to travel so many kilometres to get to Madrid, although I don't think it's something that will be noticed on the pitch," Jurado said.

"I think, more than the journey, they could be more tired because they played on Monday, but in a semi-final like this you don't notice fatigue."

Atletico go into the match having lost four of their last five Primera Division matches - a run that has left them 10th in the standings, nine points off the European places and only eight above the relegation zone.

However, despite their largely miserable league campaign, Atletico still have two chances to pick up their first major silverware since 1996, when they won the league and cup double.

They have already reached the final of the Copa del Rey, where they will face Sevilla next month, and now have the opportunity to make their first major European final since 1986 if they can get past Liverpool.

Jurado admits the semi-final could go either way though, saying: "We are two great teams. The tie is 50-50. We are going to make things difficult for Liverpool, the same as they will try to do for us.

"We have a lot of respect for our opponents, who are one of the greats of Europe and they are dangerous, but we are in the semi-finals and we have to take them on face to face."

He added: "It will be a match of high tension and maximum concentration. We shouldn't be nervous. We have to play and try to enjoy ourselves.

"We have to face a great opponent, but we are also great and that's why we've got to this stage."

Quique Sanchez Flores' men will have to do with suspended striker Sergio Aguero tomorrow night, but Jurado is hoping they can cope without the highly-rated Argentinian.

"The loss of Kun is important because he is a great player and very important for the group, but we will try to ensure his absence on the pitch is noticed as little as possible," he said.