Atlético Madrid will play in the Champions League for the 10th year in a row under Diego Simeone after beating Elche by two goals at Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero on Wednesday night. Matheus Cunha gave Atlético the lead on 28 minutes and Rodrigo de Paul doubled their advantage three minutes after the hour.
Atlético join Real Madrid and FC Barcelona as the three Spanish teams to confirm Champions League qualification next season. Sevilla drew with Mallorca as they continue to fight for fourth place in LaLiga.
Atlético welcome Julen Lopetegui’s side to the Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday night.
It didn’t look great for Atlético early on, with Šime Vrsaljko going off injured after just a few minutes. Marcos Llorente was suspended, and Simeone had to alter his line-up to facilitate the substitution. In response, Yannick Carrasco played on the right and Renan Lodi played as the left wing-back.
Tempers flared in that opening 45 as Jan Oblak and Lodi shared words after a corner kick. The teammates were separated and things soon calmed down. Minutes later, Lodi delivered the ball onto Cunha’s foot for the opener.
Lodi’s teammates celebrated with him as he cut a frustrated figure at times during those opening exchanges. He has been linked with a move away from Atlético, with Simeone’s side playing Wednesday against Johan Mojica — the player who has been mentioned as his potential replacement.
Despite being a goal down, Elche’s players came out for the second half to a standing ovation. Mallorca had drawn with Sevilla, meaning the home side are guaranteed LaLiga football next season. The players applauded the fans as they chanted “Elche, Elche, Elche.”
But de Paul doubled Atético’s lead in the second half and doubled his LaLiga total as well when he slotted home from an Antoine Griezmann pass. The Argentine has struggled this season in a peripheral role on the right of midfield, and with more defensive responsibility than he had at Udinese last season.
Upon returning to LaLiga in 2002 when they won the Segunda Division, Atlético did not finish higher than fourth before Cholo Simeone came in. In the last 10 years, they have won LaLiga twice, finished 2nd twice and 3rd on four occasions. They have also played in two Champions League finals.
It has been an irregular season for Atlético, but the guaranteed top four position will mean the club can inject needed cash into a squad that lacks depth.