Atletico Madrid eased to a 3-0 win over Osasuna in La Liga to climb provisionally second, one point clear of rival Real Madrid, who visit Valencia later on.
Yannick Carrasco, Saul Niguez and Angel Correa’s goals guaranteed Atletico will return to the Champions League next season, following this season’s humiliating group stage elimination.
Dumped out of Europe and fifth in LaLiga at the break for the World Cup in November, Atletico came back far stronger in the second half of the season.
“(We’ve got to be) grateful from December until now, the fans came back on our side, in our home, and when we have that strength in our home the team grows,” Simeone told reporters.
“In November we were in the clinic, and a doctor came, telling us we were almost dead.
“But we worked, we saw that the best thing to do was to focus on working, and we worked, and we grew, and the doctor told us today that we are still alive.”
Atletico has lost just two of its past 19 league games, against champion Barcelona in April and a shock 1-0 defeat by relegated Elche last weekend.
That fine form helped the Rojiblancos lock down Champions League qualification for the 11th consecutive season.
“Put on the black suit for eight months, and you’ll see if it’s easy,” said Simeone, referring to his usual match-day attire, when asked about the achievement.
Carrasco fired Atletico ahead against Copa del Rey runner-up Osasuna after Antoine Griezmann teed him up.
Simeone was forced to substitute striker Alvaro Morata who took a painful blow in the back from Osasuna defender David Garcia while challenging for the ball.
Saul doubled Atletico’s lead at the Metropolitano, bursting into the box and rifling home in the 62nd minute.
Correa wrapped up the win with a low finish after being slipped through by Rodrigo de Paul.
Osasuna’s defeat is a blow to its hopes of qualifying for continental competition next season, with Jagoba Arrasate’s side ninth, three points behind Athletic Bilbao in seventh -- a Conference League spot.
Earlier Espanyol, 19th, earned an important 2-1 win at Rayo Vallecano to cut the gap on Real Valladolid and Getafe to one point in the relegation battle.
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