FOOTBALL: Ten points ahead of superpowers FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid seems almost unstoppable and almost impossible to miss the championship. Since the 2013-14 season, it could be the second time that Atlético win the title under Argentinian coach Diego Simeone.
Simeone (“El Cholo”), 50, played midfield at the club and has served as head coach since late 2011. As a player, he was already much loved by the fans, a leader, tough and tactically strong. According to many, the input of the coach will strongly determine the return of the selection of Atlético.
The Spanish league (“La Liga“) is only halfway through, but the signs are already looking better than last season. Previously, Atlético played a fairly defensive tactic, while this season they have been much more dominant both home and away. In 2013-14 they often won by a one-goal margin. However, this year Atlético is scoring well. Luis Suarez, discarded by FC Barcelona, is currently top of the list of scorers in La Liga. He has notched up 14 goals for Atlético with Messi of Barcelona just behind on 13. In addition, Simeone had a core of only 14 players in the 2013-14 season, which he relied on for almost all games.
This season that core has increased to 18. It seems an impossible task for the rivals of Atlético to catch up points in the remaining 19 games. Making up for 13 loss points seems like an almost impossible task for the rivals of Atlético. Unless Atlético has to deal with a huge breakdown and one of the rivals manages to put down an almost flawless series.
According to many insiders, Atlético surely cannot lose the championship. That is quite an achievement considering their rivals from Barcelona and Madrid traditionally have larger budgets to attract expensive players. But at both FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, things are not going as desired this season.
Real Madrid’s performances have been disappointing all season. The position of coach Zinedine Zidane (three times Champions league win) is now under discussion. Many of the players purchased over the last two years have yielded little return. Furthermore, the current financial crisis at the club means that there are few opportunities available on the transfer market. In addition, 34-year-old club icon Sergio Ramos is refusing to renew his contract. He is also unlikely to play for another two months following a knee operation on February 6.
FC Barcelona is also currently in serious financial difficulties and is continuing to deal with the aftermath of a management crisis. Star player Messi has indicated that he does not want to continue at Barça after this season. The problems Messi had with the management of the club seem to have translated into a crisis of form for the Argentinian.
This has undoubtedly had an impact on the results of the team. In recent weeks, the world star seems to have regained some of the pleasure in football and the performances are improving. Many fans have the silent hope that Messi, the “child of the club”, will continue to play in the azul-grana (blue-purple) until the end of his career. Much will depend on whether the new chairman (to be elected next month) can convince Messi.
Although Atletico’s lead seems great, the road to the end of the competition is still a long way off. And… due to COVID nothing can be taken for granted. It is not a normal season. It will be an extra challenge for the clubs to keep their player selections virus-free.