Atletico focus turns to securing Europe spot
MADRID – Reuters
AFP PhotoAtletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone has been a constant thorn in Real Madrid’s side this season but April 22’s Champions League clash at the Bernabeu was a bridge too far for the Argentine and his overachieving side.
A Javier Hernandez strike two minutes from time, after Atletico had Arda Turan sent off for a second booking, put the holder through to the last four 1-0 on aggregate and ended a run of seven matches this season in which it had failed to win against their city rival.
Atletico twice beat Real in La Liga, including a 4-0 drubbing at the Calderon in February, won over two legs to claim the Spanish Super Cup in August and also knocked Real out of the King’s Cup with a 4-2 aggregate success.
Simeone has transformed Atletico into contenders in Spain and Europe since taking over at the end of 2011 and their record against Real, the world’s richest club by income, this term is astonishing considering the gulf in resources.
Real’s squad is worth 711 million euros, according to website Transfermarkt.de, more than twice as much as Atletico’s, which has a market value of 338 million.
Atletico’s task now is to hold on to third place in La Liga and secure an automatic berth in the Champions League group stage for the 2015-16 campaign.
A place in Europe’s elite club competition, and the riches it brings with it, is crucial to Atletico’s chances of competing with the elite in Spain and Europe.
“The goals are the ones we always had,” Simeone told a news conference.
“Winning the Super Cup at the beginning of the year and closing it with the third place, which is obviously what the club needs,” he added.
“The club comes out of this stronger. We are among the eight best clubs in Europe, which is not easy to achieve.
“We are a club which is working hard, which is growing enormously step by step and which is a contender in all the competitions at this level.”
Atletico is third in La Liga on 69 points, four ahead of fourth-placed Valencia, and hosts Elche on April 25.