Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone was left satisfied after his team qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League on Thursday.
The reigning champions enjoyed a narrow 1-0 victory over Hapoel Tel Aviv at the Vicente Calderon, with Raul Garcia grabbing the only goal after just seven minutes.
Atletico are guaranteed a spot in the round of 32 after the win and Simeone was pleased his side got the job done, even without the likes of star striker Radamel Falcao and midfielder Arda Turan.
“First of all, today, we have taken a step forward because we are again in the knockout stage,” Simeone was quoted as saying by Marca. “It is not a minor detail.
“We gave responsibility and minutes to many players who do not play very often, and you have to give them credit, because it is they who have put us in the next stage and the situation is beneficial for everyone.
“It is normal that our fans always want to see the players they like the most, but I have to try to find the best balance in order for us to have a successful season.”
The former Argentina midfielder spoke about the importance of Atletico’s strong start to the encounter, with Garcia opening the scoring early on against the Israelis.
Simeone reserved special praise for attacker Adriano Lopez, who impressed in the absence of Falcao.
“We started well and found a goal against a team that fielded five defenders,” Simeone said.
“We did not have the necessary intensity and aggressiveness in the last minutes to close out the game a little better. Adrian, however, tried really hard and had a very good game.”
Atletico have made a strong start to the La Liga season, sitting second, but a tough run of fixtures awaits Simeone’s men.
Sevilla, Real Madrid and Barcelona are among their next four league opponents and Simeone said it would be tough to maintain their strong domestic form while they were still in European competition.
“The further we go in the competition, the more difficult it becomes,” he said.
“The demands continue to grow and we want to continue playing each game with humility so that we know where we stand and how we can improve.”