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Club Atlético de Madrid goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo believes his team will provide stern opposition for whoever they face in this season's UEFA Champions League after Los Rojiblancos advanced past Panathinaikos FC to qualify for the competition's group stage.
The Spain Under-21 goalkeeper made some notable saves as Abel Resino's men earned a 2-0 home win over the Greek side to add to their 3-2 first-leg triumph at the OACA Spiros Louis Stadium. Speaking after the game, Asenjo admitted last season's fourth-placed Liga side were full of confidence ahead of new domestic and European campaigns. "The team gave a really good impression of itself and we're all in high spirits at the moment," he said. "We know the UEFA Champions League is where all of the biggest teams compete so we realise that thinking in terms other than going step by step would be a mistake. Having said that, I also know that Atléti have enough quality to challenge whoever we come up against."
The 20-year-old made the switch from Real Valladolid CF to the Vicente Calderón for around €5m in July and he quickly endeared himself to his new fans with confident displays against Panathinaikos. "We really did our homework ahead of these play-off games and if I won the supporters over tonight then I'm a happy man," he explained. "Not conceding in the second leg was very important from a personal point of view; that was something I felt I needed. I also know I have a lot more hard work to do if I want to keep the fans on my side."
One for all
Brazilian midfielder Paulo Assunção echoed Asenjo's claims that hard work would bring rewards to a team he believes has learned from last season's participation in the UEFA Champions League, where Atlético lost out in the first knockout round to FC Porto. "We're very tight as a group and very confident, and with confidence you never know what can happen," Assunção told uefa.com. "You saw that everybody was fighting for each other tonight which helped us to achieve our objective. We've a lot of great players here and with the same strong base as we had last year we're going to continue getting better with every game." Atlético will discover their UEFA Champions League fate when the group stage draw is made in Monaco on Thursday.
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