Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone has expressed his pride in managing, what he believes, is one of the best clubs in Europe after securing a showdown against Arsenal in the Europa League semi-finals, after defeating Sporting CP on Thursday night.
Taking a 2-0 advantage into the second leg in Portugal placed the Spanish capital outfit in a strong position, although hosts' Fredy Montero scoring within the opening 30 minutes could have created a somewhat nervy affair for Atleti.
However, as full-time approached, Leoes seemingly ran out of steam after flying out the gate at the Estadio Jose Alvalade, something the Argentine manager told ESPN he was expecting to be the case.
"Of course I expected to suffer',' Simeone said. "The teams are increasingly competitive, strong at home, and any cup is difficult.
"Sporting played a great first half, and I agree that we were tremendously inaccurate during that period. I'm happy to eliminate a tough opponent, and I already said that I expected them to do something different.''
Atletico are favourites to continue Spain's recent success in the competition and go to lift the Europa League trophy after reaching their third successive European semi-final, where they will face Arsenal.
Of course... It's Arsenal vs. Atletico Madrid.— Mattias Karén (@MattiasKaren) April 13, 2018
And Simeone is proud of his squad and believes they have now cemented their place as one of the continent's most formidable forces.
"We live with the reality, and that is the Europa League. So we play in it with enthusiasm", he added. "I am very proud because once again we are among the best in Europe. Last year it was the semi-finals of the Champions League and this time the Europa League.''
Lifting a European trophy at the end of this season would be seen as a perfect send off to Fernando Torres, who is featuring in his final campaign for his boyhood club.
It is expected, after this term, 'El Niño' will take his game to MLS. However, that has not stopped Simeone from seeing him as an important member of his squad, with the 47-year-old revealing to Marca it was always his intention to introduce the veteran at some point during Thursday evening's win.
"Gameiro, Thomas and Correa already warmed up in the first half", Simeone insisted. "In the face of Costa's injury and the match I was seeing, I had no doubt that Torres was the change."