Atletico aiming to right Champions League wrongs by making Europa League – Simeone

Irina R. Hipolito/Europa Press via Getty Images

Diego Simeone acknowledged Atletico Madrid are still hurting from their early Champions League exit but vowed to battle with the same intensity to qualify for the Europa League.

Atleti failed to make the knockout stages of Europe's premier club competition for the first time in five years after a 2-2 home draw with Bayer Leverkusen last week, in which Yannick Carrasco missed a late penalty.

Simeone's side also trail LaLiga leaders Real Madrid by nine points, while they are winless in their past four Champions League games, their longest run since between December 2008 and December 2009.

Atleti failed to win in nine games in that period before the appointment of Simeone, who admitted he and his players are still reeling from their elimination ahead of Tuesday's clash at Porto.

"Today we are out of the Champions League. It hurts us, it p****s me off because of the responsibility we have with many people who grow up in the club," the Atleti coach said.

"But it's a reality and we can't go against it. Reality is what we have and I invited us all to be together and see if we can express what we feel on the pitch."

Simeone insisted he is no stranger to an unfavourable situation in the Spanish capital, but suggested not letting those around the club down remains his primary concern.

"In my fourth year the same thing was said, in the sixth the same," the 52-year-old said of recent criticism. "In the [coronavirus] pandemic we were sixth and with a lot of work we achieved our goals.

"In the following season it seemed that we could not win LaLiga and we won it. Last season, the same – with 14 games to go, the group and the people came together to get back together.

"I suffer more for the people who work and have been around for years. People are always with us. There are things that we did not do well, but competitively I have nothing to complain about.

"I'm ready to compete, I don't know how to do it any other way. I was raised that way, knowing that you can lose, but it's nicer to win."

Simeone has his sights on the Europa League, needing to match Bayer Leverkusen's result against Club Brugge when they visit Porto to secure third place in Group B.

"They taught me since I was a child to always compete and now we can get in the Europa League," he continued. "For this we have to be strong and want it.

"We will go [every] match with our [best team], knowing that we are not in the Champions League but the Europa League is important."