Koke accepts Atletico Madrid's Europa League 'favourites' tag

Atletico Madrid goal scorer Koke admitted that it was "normal" for his team to be seen as favourites for this season's Europa League -- after Thursday evening's 2-0 quarterfinal first-leg victory over Sporting Lisbon.

Koke put his side ahead on just 22 seconds, slotting home after Diego Costa robbed dawdling Sporting defender Sebastian Coates. It was 2-0 before half-time when Antoine Griezmann ran clear and finished confidently, after being gifted the ball by the other opposition centre-back Jeremy Mathieu.

Diego Simeone's side saw out the game from there, and will expect to complete progress to the last four in next Thursday's second leg in the Portuguese capital -- especially as Sporting's Fabio Coentrao and Bas Dost are now suspended.

Although Thursday also saw first leg wins for home sides Arsenal, Red Bull Leipzig and Lazio, Koke told BeIN Sports that the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finalists were now well placed to win the Europa League for a third time in eight years.

"We played a great game, and we need another great game in Lisbon to seal qualification," Koke said. "It is normal that we are seen as favourites, with all we have done in Europe these years."

A late save from Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak helped maintain a ninth-consecutive Wanda Metropolitano clean sheet, and Koke admitted that at this stage of the competition a bit of good fortune came in useful.

"We knew it was important to play a good game, and not concede," he said. "I am happy to have started the scoring, helping the team. Then Griezmann got the second, so it was a good night all round. We had chances for a third, and in the end they almost got 2-1.

"We know that in Europe you must be careful with all the little details, and today we had a bit of fortune. We are happy with the result."

The second half saw a frustrated Spain international Costa twice denied by visiting goalkeeper Rui Patricio, and then substituted late on by Simeone.

Koke praised his teammate with club and country, especially the work done in assisting the early opening goal.

"We understand each other very well," he said. "[Costa] lacked a goal, but he did great work, like all the team."