Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone has dismissed the notion that finishing second to Barcelona in La Liga could be considered a failure.
Atleti are nine points behind Barcelona with four matches remaining. They must beat Real Valladolid on Saturday to keep their slim hopes alive, but Barca will win the title regardless of Los Rojiblancos' result if they beat Levante later in the day, thanks to their superior head-to-head record.
Per Goal's Patric Ridge, Simeone said:
"I was asked whether it is frustrating to finish second in La Liga, with Barcelona and Real Madrid, the best teams in the world.
"I don't think it's frustrating or a failure. We only think about ourselves, where we're coming from and where we're going.
"We have to strive to be competitive. In these seven-and-a-half years, we've always tried to be closer to the top.
"I demand a lot and we look to improve, but I'm glad that Atleti are expected to be among the best every year. That speaks very well of the work that the club are doing, as well as the work from the players that have been here all those years.
"Now we have the responsibility to stay at this level, waiting for Real Madrid and Barcelona to have not a great season, but that is very difficult."
Since Simeone took charge in 2011, Atletico have been punching above their weight to join Europe's elite.
The club had not finished in La Liga's top three since they last won the title in 1996, but they have now finished no lower than third in every full campaign the Argentinian has overseen.
He also guided Los Rojiblancos to the title in 2014. Atleti reached the final of the UEFA Champions League that same season and made it there again two years later, though they were defeated on both occasions by Real Madrid.
This season, they were knocked out by Juventus in the round of 16, succumbing to a 3-0 defeat in the second leg having won the first 2-0.
Ben Hayward of the Evening Standard defended Simeone's management of the team in the wake of the defeat:
In La Liga, his side have been consistent throughout the campaign, per ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan:
What has let them down is that they took just one point each off Barcelona and Real.
If Atletico hope to finish above Barcelona again in the coming seasons, Simeone needs to do better at taking points off them.
Atleti have won just two of their 25 meetings with Barcelona under him in all competitions, and both came in the Champions League.
Nevertheless, Barcelona have lost just two league games this season and only three times in La Liga overall under Ernesto Valverde. Finishing second to a team that difficult to beat is hardly a failure, particularly for a club of Atletico's somewhat more modest stature.