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Diego Simeone: “Thanks to mothers of our players for giving them big cojones”

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LONDON — Following Atletico Madrid’s stunning 3-1 win away at Chelsea on Wednesday, Atleti’s Argentine boss Diego Simeone finished his post-game press conference off in bizarre fashion.

Speaking through a translator Simeone, with his hair slicked back and a devilish look on his face, dropped the following line to salute the mothers of his players.

That’s right…

“I want to congratulate the mothers of these players, because they gave them big balls to play like this.”

Simeone is spot on. Those mothers deserve a jolly good pat on the back.

His team played with incredible drive, spirit and determination throughout and even when they feel behind to Fernando Torres’ 36th minute strike, Atleti did not panic. They stuck to their task and were driven on by Diego Costa’s tireless work rate up front and the industry and skill of midfielders Adrian Lopez, Koke and Arda Turan. All played with big cajones and put on a top performance when it really mattered, away at a hostile stadium in the UCL semifinal and all of that after going behind.

(MORE: Three things we learned from Atletico Madrid’s win over Chelsea)

You have to admire the Argentine manager for taking Atleti from a club riddled with financial turmoil when he took over in 2011 to winning the Europa League and now the brink of a UEFA Champions League and La Liga double in 2013-14. Atletico embody their coaches persona unlike any team I have ever seen. the chase, they harass, they kick, they scrap and they fight for every single ball on the pitch. Watch Simeone on the sidelines, he does it all with them.

This guy from Buenos Aires has got “big cajones” too.

Leading from the sidelines, the 44-year-old manager reminds me of a young Mourinho. The way he broods around his technical area and weighs up his next move. The former Argentine international was a leader of men in his playing days at Inter Milan, Lazio and in two separate spells with Atletico Madrid. A general in midfield, always biting into challenges and leading by example, now Simeone is one of the hottest coaching properties in Europe, and rightly so.

(MORE: Your Champions League Final – Real Madrid goes for No. 10; Atlético goes for No. 1)

Atleti’s fan saluted their manager at the final whistle as he’s lead them to the UCL final against their crosstown rivals Real Madrid. It is Atleti’s first European Cup final in over 40 years and the Spanish club thoroughly deserve to be heading to Lisbon on May 24.

Massive cojones and all…

Vardy joins chorus of Leicester players lauding Ranieri

NEWCASTLE, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 21: Leicester City's manager Claudio Ranieri congratulates Jamie Vardy of Leicester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle and Leicester City at St James Park on November 21, 2015 in Newcastle, England. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty images)
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty images
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Jamie Vardy has joined several Leicester City voices in refuting claims that he helped usher in the dismissal of championship-winning manager Claudio Ranieri.

Vardy led the Foxes in scoring during last season’s run to the Premier League title, but has struggled to follow that success this season. He has five goals in 22 matches.

[ MORE: Ranieri – “My dream died”

Ranieri was fired this week with Leicester on the verge of dipping into the relegation zone, where they now sit ahead of Monday’s match against Liverpool.

Vardy wants the world to know this wasn’t his preference, saying, “There is speculation I was involved in his dismissal and this is completely untrue, unfounded and is extremely hurtful!”

WATCH: Kane’s first half hat trick includes gorgeous volley

Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke City at White Hart Lane stadium in London, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Harry Kane spent the first half hour of Sunday’s tilt versus Stoke torturing the visiting Potters.

Kane opened the scoring in the 14th minute. Christian Eriksen bobbled Dele Alli‘s pass into the 18, but Ryan Shawcross‘ barely hit his clearance and Kane took a touch before belting home for the advantage.

[ WATCH: Spurs-Stoke live, replay ]

His second was lovely, bounding a low volley between the legs of Victor Wanyama and by a diving Lee Grant.

The third carried a bit of luck, with his low free kick taking a turn off the leg of wall end Peter Crouch to elude a lunging Grant. 3-0.

Here are the first and third, too:

Liverpool, Southampton lead EFL Cup Team of the Tournament

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The EFL Cup has named its team of the tournament ahead of Sunday morning’s final between Southampton and Manchester United at Wembley Stadium.

Liverpool and Southampton lead the way with two players each, while finalists Manchester United have just one player in the team.

[ MORE: Whitecaps acquire Brek Shea ]

That’s Ander Herrera, who joins a midfield with Sofiane Boufal (Saints), Mohamed Diame (Newcastle United), and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal).

Up top are Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge and Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham, the latter for his work at Bristol City.

The back four is led by Saints’ Maya Yoshida and Hull City’s Harry Maguire, with Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool) and Matty Pearson (Accrington Stanley) joining the unit.

The backstop is Leeds United’s Marco Silvestri.

Watch Live: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Stoke City (Lineups, Stream)

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: Wifried Bony of Stoke City and Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur battle for possession during the Premier League match between Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur at Britannia Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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The penultimate Premier League match of the weekend pits Stoke City against third-place Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on Sunday (Watch live at 8:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Jan Vertonghen is back alongside Toby Alderweireld in the heart of Spurs’ back line, and it’s no surprise that PL Download stars Harry Kane and Hugo Lloris also start.

Geoff Cameron‘s four-month layoff appears to be reaching its end, as the USMNT back is on the subs bench for Stoke City. He last played on Oct. 22.

LINEUPS

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Walker, Dier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies, Wanyama, Dembele, Eriksen, Alli, Kane. Subs: Vorm, Trippier, Wimmer, Winks, Sissoko, Son, Janssen.

Stoke City: Grant; Bardsley, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Pieters; Whelan, Adam; Arnautovic, Allen, Ramadan; Crouch. Subs: Given; Muniesa, Berahino, Afellay, Diouf, Cameron, Imbula.