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Atletico Madrid captain Koke defended the club’s “great gesture” in using their return to Parkhead to pay tribute to the side that beat Celtic in controversial circumstances in 1974.

Atletico will wear a retro strip which matches the style worn by the team that beat Celtic in the European Cup semi-finals.

The side are heroes for the Spanish club, having gone on to win the Intercontinental Cup against Argentina’s Independiente despite losing the European Cup final against Bayern Munich.

But they are viewed as villains by Celtic fans and former players. Atletico had three players sent off and seven others booked as they battled their way to a goalless first-leg draw in Glasgow with Jimmy Johnstone in particular subjected to some vicious fouls.

Police intervened in some post-match clashes between players and Celtic advised fans not to travel to Spain for the second leg, which they lost 2-0, amid reports of death threats for Johnstone and manager Jock Stein.

Two of the players from that team, Ramon Heredia and Francisco Melo, travelled on the club flight to Glasgow for Wednesday’s Champions League game. Both were booked on their previous trip to Celtic Park.

When asked about the controversy the choice of strip had sparked, Koke said: “It’s an important thing for the club, but that was 50 years ago, so while it is good to have those people with us and memories are a big part of football, it is a completely different game now.

“We are just focused on the game. It doesn’t really matter what colour of shirts we are wearing, they could be red or they could be red and white.

“It’s not so important for what happens in the game what jersey we wear, the most important thing is what happens on the pitch.

“But it’s a great gesture from the club and it’s an important part of the club’s history, what happened 50 years ago.”

Manager Diego Simeone brushed off suggestions, from the Spanish media, that the tribute might be seen as an inflammatory move.

“People can interpret things any way they want,” he said. “Wednesday is just about the opposition. Celtic is a tough rival, with some really strong players. I really admire the way they play football and it is going to be a tough game.

Diego Simeone
Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone (PA)

“In their games against Lazio and Feyenoord, especially in the first 60-70 minutes, they played at a really high tempo. They are good in transition and have a strong system that they stuck to.

“They will press you in your own half and playing here, it is a really historic stadium.

“As well as the history of 1974, my father told me about 1967 when they played Racing Club (in the Intercontinental Cup). It’s a huge club. One of the most famous in the world.”

Simeone was also asked by a Spanish journalist about a headline over their strip choice in the Scottish press which read ‘Pathetico Madrid’.

“Newspapers will have their headlines but what matters to me is the stadium, the history and the crowd,” he said.