Have Atletico Blown Their Last Chance?

Or will they remember that they are facing a really quite average Barcelona side this weekend? If it wasn't for Willy Caballero they would be champions right now...

Last Updated: 13/05/14 at 09:55 Post Comment

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Why Willy? Why, why why?

Why?

Why did you have to show off your brilliance as a goalkeeper once again? Just a micro-second or so late in the process of making one of the saves that held Atlético Madrid to a 1-1 draw to Málaga and the Rojiblancos would have been champions of La Liga.

It would have been a truly soul-inspiring, hat-tossing event to see toil and sweat prevail over money and glamour.

It would have given a shot in the arm to La Liga and European football.

It would have avoided the possibility of Barcelona being one of the most 'meh', uninspiring league title winners in Spanish football history.

Instead, Willy's pot-shot-stopping stubbornness gave Málaga a point at the Vicente Calderón that kept the southern side in La Primera next season, but made life very hazardous indeed in Atletico's attempts to win La Liga.

At least a point is needed next week in the Camp Nou to make Rojiblanco hearts explode with drunken joy. Although Diego Simeone did his duty by giving the positive side of the story, "we have reached the final round, in one place, the Camp Nou, and no one believed we would get there with a three-point lead," it really does feel like the chance has gone for Atlético Madrid.

For 15 glorious minutes on Sunday when Atlético Madrid had equalised Málaga's opening effort, the capital city outfit were just one goal away from winning La Liga with Barcelona being held to a goalless draw at Elche. In the fourth minute of injury time, that strike looked like coming with Adrían curling an effort towards to the top corner only to have Willy Caballero reaching to tip the shot wide.

The more pessimistic supporters in the Atlético fraternity - the natural state of affairs BS (Before Simeone) - will say that this was the last, best chance for the team to win La Liga and that Barcelona will prevail next weekend. However, those who still believe in Atleti's abilities will look to the club's mental strength and determination and notice that Barcelona are still a dejected rabble of a team that couldn't even see off Elche despite the players declaring that they would not mess up this opportunity.

Well, they did, but were let off the hook once again thanks to Atleti's failure to finish off Málaga in the final seconds. "It would be amazing to win La Liga this way," said Andrés Iniesta on Saturday's big clincher. "This is a group of players who have never had the chance to win La Liga in the last minute."

It feels like a week where psychology is going to come into play. To what extent will the Atlético footballers feel that the team's chances have gone and that another big performance in the Camp Nou is going to be a bridge too far?

Will the players look at Barcelona and realise that this is still a back four with little confidence (and Jose Pinto behind them) and an attack that is hardly prolific of late? If Atlético play the game rather than the occasion then their chances are looking better, especially as the match is set to be marshalled by one of the more lenient referees in La Liga.

Are Barcelona's footballers finally going to rise to the occasion having being given yet another chance to win La Liga with the failures of both Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid over the past few weeks?

So many questions in a conundrum that is going to dominate the football world for the week to come. But if wasn't for the fingertips of an Argentinean keeper, then the debate would be over by now with the triumphant Rojiblancos having two weeks to prepare for a Champions League final clash against Real Madrid. Instead, the season is still very much in play.

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