Hundreds of fans welcomed Atletico Madrid back home when the Spanish side touched down at Madrid’s Barajas-Adolfo Suarez airport in the early hours of Wednesday morning after their qualification for the Champions League final.
Although Atletico lost 2-1 on Tuesday night to Bayern Munich, Antoine Griezmann’s second half goal and a backs-to-the-wall defensive display coupled with some wonderful saves from goalkeeper, Jan Oblak were enough to see Diego Simeone’s side book a ticket to Milan at the end of the month.
Atletico have reached the final for the second time in three seasons and could well face local rivals, Real Madrid, who play Manchester City on Wednesday night.
If the Champions League final is another Madrid derby then Atletico will be looking for revenge for the heartbreak they suffered in 2014 when Sergio Ramos’ injury time header took the final into extra-time where an exhausted Atletico finally succumbed 4-1.
Fernando Torres, who is enjoying a fine second half to the season, was vital on Tuesday, setting up Griezmann to score the vital away goal.
“I don’t care who our rival is, this side is prepared to play against anyone and we’ll take on whoever comes out of the mix,” he said on Spanish television.
“We had to suffer a lot against Bayern,” he admitted, saying that at times Atletico had been “overrun by a great side, but the suffering and the battling were worthwhile.”
“It was like a constant siege, but we had nothing to lose and the goal helped us keep calm,” said the striker.
Despite arriving home at 4.30 am there is no rest for Atletico, who are level on points in the race for the Spanish BBVA Primera Liga title. Simeone’s men face already relegated Levante on Sunday knowing a win will give them options on lifting the title and the coach has cited them for training at 11.30 am on Thursday morning.