Club Atlético de Madrid captain Antonio López called on his team-mates to put their domestic troubles behind them and focus instead on reaching the inaugural UEFA Europa League final at the expense of Liverpool FC.
Since Quique Sánchez Flores arrived at the Vicente Calderón last October, Atlético have enjoyed an upsurge in form, reaching the UEFA Europa League last four and Copa del Rey final. The good times have been tempered slightly of late, however, with Los Rojiblancos winning just twice in their last ten games in all competitions, and they welcome Liverpool to Madrid on the back of three successive Liga defeats.
"Our most recent results weren't what we would have hoped for but this is a different competition and we want to continue on our path to the final," Antonio López, 28, explained. "Now it's time to give all our attention to the UEFA Europa League and the game with Liverpool. It's going to be a tough encounter played at a solid rhythm but I foresee a beautiful match and let's hope things go our way."
Los Colchoneros have never lost at home to English opposition yet they will need to be at their best in the first leg to maintain that record against a Liverpool side who have triumphed seven times in 13 visits to Spain.
"That no English team has ever won here at the Calderón says that we've done things well against them in the past and we want this to continue," Antonio López said. "We want to make things difficult here and to make ourselves a tough side to beat. We all know how hard it's going to be but we have to play to our strengths and take advantage of the chances that come our way."
Antonio López dismissed any thought of Liverpool being distracted by the journey they undertook to reach the Spanish capital as a result of the travel problems in Europe. The left-sided defender instead preferred to focus on the need to put in two giant performances against Rafael Benítez's side in the games ahead.
"Once the game has started you can be sure they won't be thinking of how they got to the stadium," he said. "These will be two very different games to those which have come before for us this season. We've been battling through eliminators this term and the feeling within our squad is good."
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