Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke says his team’s objective now is the UEFA Champions League, though the Spain international is reluctant to call his side the favorites heading into next week’s return leg against Real Madrid.
The midfielder stressed the importance of Atletico finishing in third place in La Liga, thus avoiding the Champions League play-off next season.
When asked his thoughts about Tuesday’s first leg of the Champions League quarter-final, Koke admitted the team needs to perform at a higher level if they are to get the necessary result and progress to the next stage of the competition next week at the Santiago Bernabeu.
“From the first leg we learned that they will come out with a lot of intensity, as we saw during the first half,” Koke said. “In the second half we were able to match that intensity.
“They are a great team and we will have to come out strong as them or even more so.”
The Spain international went on to say that there is no clear favorite in the tie, but if there were, it would be the reigning European and world champions.
“There are no favorites,” Koke added. “But if there were it would be Madrid. They won the competition last year and they are playing at home.”
While Atletico got the better of their Madrid rivals in the second half, it was Real who had the best chances to score at the Vicente Calderon. If not for the heroic efforts of goalkeeper Jan Oblak, Los Colchoneros could have conceded one or two away goals.
The fact that the tie is still scoreless means Atletico could heap additional pressure on Real Madrid, should the visitors find a way to penetrate the home side’s defense next Wednesday.
“We know what a great team Real Madrid are and that they are going out to win the game,” Koke concluded. “We intend to do the same, maybe even more so.
“They have the advantage of playing at home, but we’ll give it everything to go through.
“It’s 0-0 and they’re in front of their own fans. But at the end of the day it’s eleven against eleven, and if we score, it’ll count as double.”
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