Though there will surely be disappointment in Madrid following Aletico’s disappointing exit from the Europa League at the hands of Rubin Kazan, it may very well turn out to be in their best interests.
Atletico won the competition in 2010 and 2012, with the 2012 final a 3-0 thumping of fellow Spaniards Athletic Bilbao.
Los Rojiblancos have proven their quality in Europe’s secondary competition, and are ready to prove themselves on Europe’s premier stage.
Atletico are currently second in La Liga, four points ahead of arch-rivals Real Madrid, and in the last automatic qualification spot for next year's Champions League.
Though a Europa League crown would have been nice, the ultimate goal must be Champions League football at the Vicente Calderon next year.
Atletico have the quality to succeed in the most prestigious and lucrative club competition in the world, and must take advantage of their current league position to ensure qualification for next year.
Being eliminated from the Europa League will alleviate fixture congestion, as those Thursday night games don’t allow for sufficient rest before league play returns on the weekends.
The lack of midweek games will allow Atletico more rest and the ability to focus more on league play and retaining that second place spot, capitalising on any slip-ups Madrid’s continued participation in the Champions League may cause.
Atletico are not without the chance at cup silverware this season, and currently lead Sevilla 2-1 after their semi-final first leg of the Copa de Rey, with the return fixture to take place at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on February 27. A good result will see them take on the winner of Barcelona-Madrid at a neutral location in the final.
A domestic trophy in addition to finishing ahead of Real Madrid in the league would not only ensure Champions League play for the 2013/2014 season, but would also send a message to the rest of Europe that Spain’s duopoly has been broken.
This statement of intent would make it easier to retain their current talent as well as attracting new targets, building a formidable and sustainable squad of quality.
Though the early exit from the Europa League was regrettable, Champions League football is the stepping-stone to greater success, and thus must be made the priority for Los Colchoneros.
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