Eddie Howe was amused by the suggestion he might be the "new Diego Simeone" following accusations of Newcastle United employing Atletico Madrid's "dark arts" this season.
Newcastle are enjoying an outstanding season, third in the Premier League and on the eve of the home leg of an EFL Cup semi-final.
Having been more concerned with a relegation battle this time a year ago than any cup progress, the Magpies need only avoid defeat against Southampton on Tuesday to make a first major final since 1999.
Liverpool were the last top-flight team to beat Newcastle way back in August, their sole league reverse this season, but their approach both in that match and in subsequent tussles with elite opposition has been the source of some debate.
Newcastle, whose coach Howe spent time studying Simeone's Atletico after leaving Bournemouth, have received five yellow cards for time-wasting this season, fewer only than Aston Villa and Fulham.
In relation to this trait, Howe was asked if he was the "new Diego Simeone" and laughed before replying: "It's so funny how things can be blown out of all proportion.
"Yes, I did go and see a couple of Diego Simeone's training sessions, and I have huge respect for him as a coach and a manager.
"But literally they're one-hour training sessions and then you go. Certainly I took nothing of the 'dark arts' from Diego.
"I'm very much the same manager [he was before]. I've changed slightly because I've got older and I've got new ideas, and I'm always looking to evolve my work and improve.
"I'm still fundamentally the same manager with the same principles and the same beliefs in style of play.
"I just think I've become different from managing Newcastle. I think, naturally, managing this club is a huge challenge, so you evolve in that way."
January 29, 2023
Newcastle's strong defensive record is also comparable to Simeone's best Atletico sides, keeping a Europe-leading 16 clean sheets in all competitions.
But Howe is not planning to protect a draw against Southampton as he urges his Newcastle team, who have been wasteful of late, to attack their opponents in the manner popular former manager Kevin Keegan did.
"The template is to entertain – of course, within the Kevin framework," he said. "We want Newcastle supporters to come to the game excited about what they're going to see.
"It's to attack, it's to be front-foot, and it's also to try to win."
Southampton were the last team to score against Nick Pope, back in early November, and boss Nathan Jones does not believe a win on Tyneside is beyond the Premier League's basement side, who lost 1-0 in the first leg.
"It's not 'mission impossible' by a long chalk. It's a game of football," Jones said. "Anything can happen.
"We have to be the best versions of ourselves – we know that's what we have to do. We have to have a game plan, we have to be good, and we have to execute it.
"Newcastle are in good form, but they're not going to go the rest of their lives without getting beaten, so why not get beaten tomorrow night? That's what we have to attempt to do.
"We'll go there in good spirits, we felt we played well in the first leg. If we'd had a bit more belief in the first half and been a bit more aggressive, it could have been something different.
"We had a really good chance to take the lead. There's a lot of positives to come out of it.
"It's definitely not 'mission impossible', and not even 'improbable'. It's a really acutely poised cup tie. That's how we're treating it."