Balotelli is one of the best in the world – Diego Costa

The Atletico Madrid attacker is looking forward to a “beautiful and complicated” Champions League tie with AC Milan ahead of the first leg on Wednesday

Diego Costa has branded Mario Balotelli one of the best players in the world ahead of Atletico Madrid’s visit to AC Milan on Wednesday.

The Rojiblancos have been drawn against the Rossoneri in the last 16 of the Champions League and they will play at San Siro this week before a return leg at the Vicente Calderon to decide who reaches the quarter-final stage.

Balotelli’s six goals in seven games see him go into the opener as one of the stand-out dangers to Diego Simeone’s men and fellow striker Costa – who himself has bagged 21 goals in La Liga this campaign – praised the Italian forward’s quality in front of goal.

“There is no doubt about the quality of Balotelli, he was man of the match even last Friday [against Bologna, when he scored the winner],” the Brazilian-born attacker told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“He’s a great striker, one of the world’s best players. Our defenders know this – they have been warned about him and will do anything to stop him from scoring.

“I do not know if there are similarities between me and him, though.”

Milan sit ninth in Serie A but Costa refused to entertain notions they were going through a crisis and suggested even the best teams suffer poor patches, pointing out Atletico’s recent three-match losing streak before they returned to winning ways with a 3-0 victory against Valladolid.

“It will be a beautiful and complicated tie,” Costa said of the Champions League last-16 clash. “We must take advantage of any opportunities that present themselves in this coming round.

“Milan are not in crisis, we too weren’t playing well until the weekend – we were having our worst period, or so it was claimed.

“It was very important to win again and regain confidence. What has happened to us can happen to a team as large as ours. Against Valladolid we needed a strong performance and that’s what we got. We never doubted ourselves.

“A team as big as Milan have huge tradition and know how to play these games. We’ll have a great match.”

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