Out-Of-Sorts Atletico Show Signs Of Strain

Atletico Madrid missed an opportunity to maintain their lead at the top of La Liga by suffering a shock defeat to struggling Almeria. Can they recover to hold off the Big Two?

Last Updated: 10/02/14 at 09:25 Post Comment

Latest Articles

Di Maria Still Looking to be Loved

9 comments

Everyone else may see Angel Di Maria as a wonderful player, but he doesn't quite fit the Real Madrid mould. The president is prepared to let one of his stars leave..

Fractious Spain Face Final Curtain

3 comments

Spain haven't got a great deal to gain out of their final fixture against Australia. As Tim Stannard says, the post-mortem is already firmly underway...

All Articles

If Diego Simeone's Atlético Madrid were a singer, they would be Bruce Springsteen: earthy, growly, and workmanlike with sleeves rolled up and digging up roads for a living. Like The Boss's back catalogue, most Atlético performances under the Argentinean manager have been solid, rarely spectacular but with the odd hands-in-the-air 'Born to Run' moments.

This has been the key to the wonderful Rojiblanco success over the past two years. It's that ability to overcome the more modest, gritty rivals that seem to cause problems to the positively Liberace-esque Barcelona and Real Madrid. Whereas the traditional Big Two tend to struggle to break down bus-parking defences, Atlético rarely have issues squeezing opponents to a bursting point with honest, hard-working endeavours.

A narrow one or two goal victory against Almería was the expected result on Saturday night down on Spain's blustery south coast. The team was certainly going to be a little dulled by the midweek defeat to Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey, but the key strength of Atlético is being able to bounce right back and get on with the job in hand.

Instead, it was Almería who dug deep for 75 minutes, ceding possession to the visitors and then scoring two late goals against a team missing the calming influence of Thibaut Courtois in goal. Replacement Dani Aranzubia was sent off after giving a penalty away with five minutes remaining, leaving the midfielder Gabi to try - and fail - to save the spot-kick.

"There are no excuses. We cannot blame the referee, the wind, nothing. Our rivals did a great job. Congratulations," was the message from working class hero, Simeone after the defeat, which was only Atlético's second of the league campaign.

The Vicente Calderón club now have another grueling match with Real Madrid on Tuesday, as they try to overcome a 3-0 deficit in the Copa del Rey. Simeone must hope that the distraction of the cup competition does not suck too much energy from the team to the detriment of the title race and the upcoming Champions League dates against Milan, as poor as Clarence Seedorf's side currently appear.

Tuesday's opponents are certainly in the ascendency in terms of spirit after a 4-2 victory against Villarreal in the Santiago Bernabéu. Not only did the game see Real Madrid draw level with their city rivals at the top of La Liga, the victory also saw Gareth Bale back in action and claiming a goal and an assist. However, the current toast of the Bernabéu is attacking midfielder Jesé Rodríguez, who is being cherished as a rare beastie in Madrid these days - a youth academy product good enough to keep a regular spot in the first team.

There is even pressure brewing for a call-up to the Spain's World Cup squad, although Vicente Del Bosque would have to decide which of Alvaró Negredo, Fernando Llorente, Diego Costa, David Villa, Pedro, Cesc Fabregas, Jesús Navas, David Silva, Juan Mata, Isco amongst many others would have to make way.

Barcelona's players had spent half their week telling supporters to come along to matches after just 38,000 attended the Camp Nou on Wednesday night in a Copa del Rey semi-final against Real Sociedad. The fans in return might ask the Barcelona players to defend properly as they seem quite incapable of achieving this at the moment - and arguably over the past year - with Sevilla taking the lead in a Sunday clash in the Sánchez Pizjuán. The home side almost got a second before Barcelona woke up and a brace from Leo Messi contributed to a 4-1 victory to leave a three-way equal points tie at the top of the table.

For so long, La Liga has quite rightfully been the butt of jokes for being one of the most pointless (and point-filled) title races out of Europe's big leagues. But this season, the rough and ready Atlético are still neck and neck with the money-bags Big Two, despite an usual defeat down south. Each week, the title race is getting better and better.

Tim Stannard

Football365 Facebook Fan Page

The Football365 fan page is a great place to meet like minded people, have football related discussions and make new friends.

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

I

don't see Neymar or Suarez wanting to play second fiddle to Messi or playing to support Messi in his quest to get the World Player of the Year award back.

chelseablue_no1
Can Suarez Succeed Where Cesc Failed?

A

t this point, buying the whole club for £175 million would probably have been a cheaper option

lee
Liverpool Lovren bid rejected

O

ne obvious name missing.... Dirk Kuyt

redjari
Five Midfield Targets For Manchester United

Latest Photos

Footer 365

World Cup: Louis van Gaal says two Netherlands players refused to take first penalty against Argentina

Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal claims none of his players wanted to take the first penalty against Argentina.

World Cup: Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella thinks Germany are favourites for Sunday's final

​Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella thinks a well-rested Germany will have the advantage in Sunday's World Cup final.

World Cup: Penalty joy for Argentina as they beat Netherlands to reach final

Argentina overcame Netherlands on penalties after a 0-0 draw to set up a meeting with Germany in the World Cup final.

Mail Box

Mails: Are Footballers Just Big Kids?

That's what the mailbox thinks, with Brazil's players showing a lack of responsibility in their 7-1 thrashing by Germany. Plus, more on Ozil and the importance of passion...

'Wow' Says The Mailbox In Unison. Wow Indeed.

There is understandably a great deal of reaction to Tuesday night's lunacy, but we have added thoughts on the anti-Ozil 'agenda' and Liverpool acting like they're big-time...

© 2014 British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media property