Atletico Madrid - Real Madrid: Can Atleti be LaLiga contenders?

Atletico Madrid - Real Madrid: Can Atleti be LaLiga contenders?
Atletico Madrid - Real Madrid: Can Atleti be LaLiga contenders?
Atletico Madrid - Real Madrid: Can Atleti be LaLiga contenders?
How likely is it for Atletico Madrid to become La Liga champions this season? Well, if we take a glance at last season, one might think that their two points difference with runners up Barcelona is enough reason for glorious hope.

And it wouldn’t be entirely false, just the year before it was the Rojiblancos lifting that title above giants Real Madrid and Barcelona. To add to that the only side to be crowned champions aside from El Classico protagonists in the last 20 years is Diego Simeone’s.

It wouldn’t be possible to look at Atletico’s chances without looking at their current competition. Both are living their best lives - Barcelona, granted, had a setback in the Champions League, but apart from that night at the Allianz, the Catalans remain unbeaten.

With reinforcements in the form of top scorer Robert Lewandowski, skilled and dynamic Raphinha, additions in the back with Jules Kounde and Eric Garcia and more. It is looking like Xavi’s dreamy vision is finally close to fruition. They seem to be the shadow getting closer and closer, coming back to haunt the capital.

However, for now Atletico’s immediate challenge will be hosting city rivals Real Madrid at their very own Wanda Metropolitano. Their cursed home record against Los Blancos was finally broken last season as they defeated them for the first time ever at their new adopted home from 2017.

Los Blancos have won every single game so far this season, however, one might argue that they have yet to face a challenging contest. The LaLiga and Champions league winners have scored 20 goals and conceded five in all seasons so far.

Atletico will be Real Madrid’ second European football-playing opponent in La Liga. In other words, they will be the fire to test the royal iron of Spain.

It hasn’t been a comfortable ride so far for the Atleti faithful. In the last month, they managed only one victory with more than a one-goal difference.

Meaning that the derby won’t be a walk in the park either for the striped side of the capital. They sit at 7th having lost to Villareal at home and dropped points at Real Sociedad. Most recently, losing their second Champions League contest to Bayer Leverkusen 2-0.

“Above all in the first half we had two or three plays which we could have exploited better, more vision was required to be able to do damage from the options that we had. We did not take advantage of them and the game fell into what I have described.”

Simeone will be hoping that his men would find the ‘’vision’’ they were lacking as a victory against their rivals might just be a sign that their league title two years ago is not a feat that happens once every other decade.

They will be looking to build a winning streak against Madrid, especially one at home that will give them a crucial boost as they continue to prove that they are worthy of the same calibre as the usual champions.

Unlike their rivals, Atletico haven’t made any big name signings, as a matter of fact, they lost one in Luis Suarez following the end of his contract.

Moreover, veteran Antoine Griezmann is not playing as many minutes as his manager would like. It all happened because of a reported administrative issue.   

The Frenchman is in his second season back at Atletico on loan from Barcelona and it’s widely reported that the Rojiblancos will have to pay a €40 million transfer fee to the Blaugranas if Greizmann completes more than 45 minutes in half of the games for which he is available.

"We have to make them understand that playing well for 30 minutes is more important than playing badly for 60," explained the Argentinian boss.

Last season, Griezmann played for more than 45 minutes in 30 of his 37 matches (81%).

For that percentage to drop under 50%, he can only play for 45 minutes or more in about 13 matches this season (or slightly more if Atletico consider Copa del Rey and the Champions League).

And with Griezmann being the potential hope to replace Suarez, it is proving to become an issue for Simeone.

That said, some positives are showing in the signs of returning striker Alvaro Morata from Juventus, the Spaniard has three goals under his belt and is becoming one of the main striker options.

22-year-old Joao Felix is a ray of hope to the Rojiblancos, with a lot of expectations laid on the Portuguese’s shoulders. The €127 million signing has been praising his time at Atletico and with his manager.

“El Cholo taught me things that I still had not learnt. Managers are there in order to teach those things. Things that he has shown me that are of benefit to me. It is his role.”

Back in 2014, Simeone led them to their first league title in 17 years, in 2009, their first Europa League, 2010 UEFA Super Cup, if there is someone who can keep renewing and recycling Atletico Madrid, it’s Diego Simeone.

The Argentinian showed how he can constantly reinvent this side and if there is anyone who proved to challenge Spain’s giants it is him and the men he uses, whether at the Vicente Calderon or the Wanda Metropolitano.