Diego Simeone insists he has no regrets over Atletico Madrid's 2016 form after seeing his side come on strong during the second half of the season.
Four of Atleti's five defeats in Spain's top flight came before the turn of the year, with only leaders Barcelona getting the better of them in 2017 to date.
The Champions League semi-finalists have edged ahead of Sevilla in the battle for third place – a position they have filled for the past two seasons since their 2013-14 LaLiga triumph.
Simeone's men have displayed title-worthy form from January onwards but the Argentine was not pondering what might have been ahead of Tuesday's home match against fifth-placed Villarreal.
"Every year brings difficulties that you have to get through," he said. "No year is simple, either when we've won LaLiga or finished third, in this league every team goes through a rough patch.
"We went through it at the beginning of the season but in 2017 we've been more consistent and hope to continue along that line.
"It's just like every year, we've always competed well, as much in the footballing sense as in the physical and I hope that'll be the case against Villarreal.
"We have a difficult game against a tough opponent that plays good football in a settled 4-4-2 system. They defend as a unit and take advantage of any loss of possession, with players who are very good with the ball and with excellent attackers."
When asked to explain Atleti's improvements as the season has worn on, he stuck close to a familiar mantra of hard work.
"Greater consistency in the results is always a result of the collective work of the team and, at the same time, individual contributions are also becoming more significant," he added.
"I think individual performances have improved in correspondence with the improvement of the team.
"That's always happened - whenever the team has been strong we've had great moments from many different footballers individually.
"That's what's happened since the beginning of 2017 and we hope we can keep this rhythm up right until the end."
Simeone declined to comment on Atletico's forthcoming player registration ban amid reports the club will imminently learn whether their appeal against the FIFA ruling at the Court of Arbitration for Sport has been successful.
He added: "We do not have any information regarding what may happen."