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Europa League

Atletico duo 's delight at sparkling 2012

Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao and coach Diego Simeone have hailed an outstanding 2012 for the Vicente Calderon club.

After 12 months in which Los Colchoneros won the Copa del Rey and Europa League and he scored 43 goals in 44 club games, Colombian hitman Falcao said things could hardly have gone better.

"It has been a marvellous, fantastic 2012," El Tigre told Spanish TV station Cuatro. "There have been so many moments it is difficult to choose the best. The mark for the year is maybe a nine - there was just a little bit missing, so a 9.5, maybe."

Falcao, a reported Chelsea target, praised Atletico, currently second in La Liga and four points ahead of city rivals Real Madrid, for punching well above their financial weight.

"With the budgets available to Real Madrid and Barcelona, they can have the best players in the world," he said. "But it is Barca first, Atletico second and Madrid third. So now we should talk about Barca and Atletico."

Atletico boss Simeone, who took charge last Christmas with the club in the bottom half of the Primera Division table and morale at a low ebb, told a press conference on Thursday that the improvement in fortunes was down to his players showing the right attitude.

"Above all, I feel very happy for having been at the club I love for a year, in which I have found a group who have shown commitment," he explained. "What we want in a team, above all, is to be a team which achieves nice things. We are in the middle of this season and want to continue on the same path.

"I feel a huge joy, because when we arrived here the situation was not easy. The players have made a huge effort to be competitive. The most difficult thing is to keep the stability at the club."

On Thursday, Atletico were drawn against Russian side Rubin Kazan in the Europa League last 32, and Simeone said he did not see his side as favourites to progress.

"It will be very tough and competitive," he said. "They are a team with a very good attacking game. The tie is 50/50."

Atletico's final game of 2012 sees Celta Vigo visit the Calderon on Friday. The Argentine coach said he would not be underestimating the Galician side, who are currently 15th in the table.

"They have lots of options in attack, play well in midfield, and in Iago Aspas have a player who can make the difference," he said. "We must be alert and control the centre of the field."


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