While neither Madrid side are in fine form this season, Atletico are looking to Saturday’s derby as a change to kick start a sluggish campaign
The upcoming showdown between the two Madrid powerhouses of Atletico Madrid and Atletico Madrid has Spain’s capital city on a high level of excitement. However, things are not exactly going to plan for both teams this season.
Atletico’s struggle is possibly a little less surprising after six magnificent years under Cholo Simeone’s energizing influence. If we think exclusively about this weekend’s derby, the Colchonero fans still have statistical reasons for being optimistic.
Traditionally, their players are in good spirits after international football breaks: they win seven out of every 10 games they play when they bounce back into La Liga action. The fearful ‘FIFA Virus’ usually has a greater impact on Real Madrid’s footballers, who are scattered throughout the globe for two weeks and with little time to prepare for the upcoming game.
However, people might be tempted to talk about disappointment for Atleti with only 11 games played. Yes, it is true that performances in this season’s Champions League haven’t been on point, but matters in LaLiga do look a little bit better: after all, Simeone’s men are pulling off last-minute wins in clutch games that have afforded them 23 points, the same total as Real Madrid and only four less than this season’s biggest surprise package, the mighty Valencia. Barcelona, however, seem untouchable at this point.
Some Rojiblanco fans are disgruntled because of the way their star players have been performing, but they should appreciate a little bit more those who are less established but are becoming irreplaceable. Take Thomas Partey, for example: the striker has been redesigned into a defensive midfielder and has attempted four shots on goal this season… and banged in four goals. Maximum efficiency.
Additionally to his surprising role as the team’s top scorer, Atlético wants to keep him happy and will bump up his salary soon, as he is the first team player with the lowest wages. Talks are ongoing and an agreement will be made official soon.
Partey is one of the side’s highlights, while Antoine Griezmann embodies one of the biggest disappointments. Formerly a huge and differential player, his role this season hasn’t been nearly as impactful. Constant news about a possible signing for other (bigger) teams seem to be taking his mind off the game. President Enrique Cerezo brushed off rumours about Griezmann’s hypothetical departure: “You don’t actually understand Griezmann’s sense of humour. He wants to stay, he hasn’t stated anything opposite to that”, he calmly told the press earlier this week.
All in all, the truth is that Atletico’s season isn’t on par with past years, although they still could come back and regain part of their might in a fixture that’s always special for their fans. After all, it will be the first game against their historical archenemy in the brand new Wanda Metropolitano stadium, which has slipped easily into Atletico’s idiosyncrasy and renewed identity based on a work ethic, hard effort and grit. Other teams shouldn’t count out Simeone’s Atleti yet: it could become their biggest mistake.