Atletico eye trip to Neptune

MADRID - High-flying Atletico Madrid fancy a champagne-splashed trip to Neptune after the small matter of cup finals in Hamburg on May 12 and Barcelona on May 19.

Atletico's teenage goalkeeper David De Gea has never had the chance to celebrate at the Neptune fountain where the club's fans traditionally gather to party after a title triumph.

After the La Liga side ousted Liverpool in their Europa League semi-final on Thursday - and with a King's Cup final to come - the 19-year-old could well get to do it twice.

"I have never been to Neptune to celebrate and I rather fancy it," De Gea told reporters after Diego Forlan's strike in added time at Anfield set up a final against Fulham.

When Quique Sanchez Flores replaced Abel Resino as Atletico coach last October the club were in disarray in 15th place in La Liga. They had also just been hammered 4-0 at Chelsea in the Champions League.

Six months on and the former Real Madrid and Valencia defender has lifted the club into the final of both the Europa League and the domestic cup.

They could even eclipse La Liga giants Real and Barcelona as Spain's most successful side of the season.

Atletico's heart-stopping semi-final success against Liverpool sparked wild celebrations in the Spanish capital into the early hours of Friday morning, with flag-waving and horn-blaring fans driving triumphantly through the city.

Several hundred gathered at the Neptune fountain near the Prado museum, traditional site of Atletico's title celebrations down the years.

TROPHY DROUGHT

They last won a trophy in 1996 when they claimed a Spanish league and King's Cup double. They take on Sevilla in the King's Cup final.

"Who would have though it (six) months ago," captain Antonio Lopez added. "It's for all the Atletico fans, the families and the club."

Atletico's spectacular turnaround under Sanchez Flores will have been bittersweet for Liverpool striker Fernando Torres, who moved from boyhood club Atletico in 2007 seeking silverware.

The 26-year-old, sidelined with a knee injury but hoping to be fit for the World Cup, watched from the stands as his beloved former club dashed Liverpool's last chance of a trophy this campaign.

Sanchez Flores said his players were giddy after Uruguay striker Forlan snatched the crucial away goal to send Atletico into the final after a 2-2 draw on aggregate.

"I can't describe what the dressing room was like after the match," the former Valencia and Benfica coach told a news conference. "They were like school kids and it's great to see them so happy."

La Liga leaders Barca or second-placed Real could be left watching Atletico's progress with envy after a trophy-less season following elimination from the Champions League and the cup.

"Atletico is poised to clinch an unforgettable double and become the big winners of the season - and at the expense of their wealthy neighbours to boot," Marca sports daily trumpeted in an editorial on Friday.

"Reaching two finals could have enormous significance for the club. It should give them a base which will consolidate them among the elite and prevent them slipping back into their bad old ways ever again."

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