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Oct 9, 2012

Falcao dismisses Atletico Madrid title talk

Radamel Falcao has said Atletico Madrid are not realistic title challengers this season - even though Sunday's 2-1 home win over Malaga put them level on points with Barcelona at the top of the table.

Atletico president Enrique Cerezo has set Champions League qualification as the club's main goal for the season, and Falcao said this was a more realistic prize to aim for given Barca and Real Madrid's far greater resources.

"The Champions League is our objective," Falcao told Colombian newspaper El Tiempo on Monday. "We are capable of doing it. Now, in the championship, we are fighting against teams with a bigger budget than the rest of La Liga, teams who have the best players in the world."

Atletico, known for years as Spain's most predictably unpredictable side, are currently showing an impressive ability to grind out results, securing six wins and a draw from their opening seven matches.

Falcao, back in his home country for Friday's World Cup qualifier at home to Paraguay, said: "We must be very consistent all year to be able to achieve our goal.

"We worry about overcoming the opponent we have each Sunday. That way, we get closer to the end of the season."

The opener against Malaga was Falcao's eighth league goal this season, and maintained his narrow lead over Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in Spain's pichichi top scorer race because he has played one game less than both so far.

El Tigre, who scored 36 times for his club last season, said he hoped to continue his current form through the campaign. "It is a momentary thing, because everything is very tight, but I am enjoying being ahead [of Messi and Ronaldo] at this stage of the tournament," he said.

"I hope I can stay there. I want to be able to continue competing, to be able to achieve the same numbers as last year."

The defending Europa League champions have also won both their opening group games in their bid to retain that trophy. A lot of the credit for the strong start has gone to the forceful and demanding style of coach Diego Simeone, a tough midfielder for the Atletico team that won the Primera Division in 1995-96.

Falcao, who played under Simeone at Argentine club River Plate in 2008, said his boss "has not changed much, he is still the same".

He added: "Maybe he is a bit more relaxed in some aspects, giving a bit of freedom to players, but for the rest he is the same."

Atletico's flying start has even drawn attention across the city at the Bernabeu, where Real Madrid, accustomed to looking down on their local rivals, are instead eight points and three places behind them in the table.

Real captain Iker Casillas told Spanish radio station COPE on Monday that Simeone's team were plausible challengers for this season's title, saying: "You cannot discard Atletico - it does not surprise me that they are up there.

"Since Simeone arrived, he has given them a good mentality. I believe they can fight to stay up there."

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