Valera upbeat despite defeat
Juan Valera believes Atletico Madrid can hold their heads high after the defending champions bid farewell to the Europa League on Thursday.
Atletico went into Thursday night's final round of group fixtures knowing they did not control their own destiny after suffering what was a costly 3-2 home defeat to Aris Thessaloniki in their previous outing in Group B.
That result meant Atletico, who were level on seven points with Aris but with an inferior head-to-head record prior to the games, needed to better the result Aris got at home to already-eliminated Rosenborg in their match away to group winners Bayer Leverkusen.
It was a tough task and in the end neither result went Atletico's way, with Quique Sanchez Flores' men being held 1-1 at a snow-covered BayArena while Aris defeated Rosenborg 2-0.
Valera felt his team deserved more though, saying: "Everything was lost the day against Aris. We didn't depend on ourselves, but we still had a great game against a difficult team. I honestly think that although we've been knocked out, we are going with our heads high. I think we deserved the victory."
Atletico now have two more matches before the short winter break. On Sunday they will try to improve on their sixth-placed position in La Liga when they face lowly Malaga before then meeting Espanyol in the first leg of their Copa del Rey last-16 tie.
"We must resolve this situation by winning the next games against Malaga and Espanyol. It's very important to turn the page as soon as possible and forget this elimination," Valera added.
"We started well (against Leverkusen) and we played a great game, we did enough to win and we weren't ever thinking of the game at Aris. The only thing we wanted to do was win and even up until the final minutes we could have done that.
"Now more than ever we need the fans. We must give it everything in the two competitions that we're still in."
Striker Diego Forlan, who scored both goals in last season's Europa League final win over Fulham, added on his club's website: "It's not the first time we've been knocked out of a competition. In other years we've tumbled out and in the end we've achieved the objectives that were set out for us at the start of the season. We must try to achieve them and try to forget this as soon as possible.
"We knew that it was going to be complicated because we lost everything when we played against Aris. We depended on other teams, but even so we gave it everything to try and win."