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By ESPN Staff

Bilbao coach Llorente cools European talk

Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente has played down talk of a possible European challenge this season despite the Basque side's impressive recent run.

Athletic, one of three clubs never to have been relegated from the top flight, have spent the last few seasons fighting at the wrong end of the table and they have not finished in the top 10 since the 2004/05 campaign, when they were ninth.

However, their form over the last two months has given rise to the suggestion they could be an outside bet for a UEFA Cup berth this season, with Joaquin Caparros' side having won five and drawn two of their last eight league matches.

That run has lifted them up to 11th in the standings, seven points behind fifth-placed Atletico Madrid - who they beat 3-2 at the weekend - but while Llorente acknowledges things are going well for the team, he insists it is too early to start thinking about claiming a top-six finish.

"We finished last year very well and we've also worked well over Christmas because we are carrying on where we left off," the newly-capped Spain striker said in Marca.

"Now we are strong at the back, we are not allowing our opponents many opportunities and up front we are capable of taking advantage of the chances we get.

"If we continue working as we have until now, we can start to look towards the top of the table. But right now you shouldn't look either up or down, but focus only on the next game."


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