While Real Madrid’s failure in La Liga has been much publicized, Atlético Madrid have kept up a dogged pursuit of Barcelona at the top of the table 

Always pestering, always criticized… and always competitive. Atlético de Madrid are rounding off a more than decent season with the non-stop chase of mighty Barcelona in La Liga. Yeah, getting knocked out unceremoniously from the Champions League was a blow for a team used to reaching the final rounds of the championship, but their solid groundwork and consistency make them to date the only alternative to the Blaugranas in La Primera. Why is this happening?

1) The Griezmann-Costa partnership

Since Diego Costa was officially able to play in January, the Spanish-Brazilian player and Antoine Griezmann have been together on the pitch for almost half a dozen games and their numbers are excellent: four wins and a single draw against Girona, with one of them always scoring. Atlético’s current triumphant run can be explained by their excellent performance.

2) Polishing the opposition away with overwhelming flair

Looking back at last weekend’s Sevilla game, Atlético impressed everyone with their easy trouncing of Vincenzo Montella’s men, who were down 0-2 at halftime at home and with absolutely zero chance of a comeback. The second half was as implacable as the first: 0-5 by the 81st minute.

It’s true that many fans argue that Atleti are much more comfortable winning by a single goal than putting on amazing displays of scoring, but we shouldn’t forget that the Colchoneros actually know how to do that kind of stuff. This season, apart from Sevilla, both Las Palmas and Levante suffered a five-goal thrashing on their own turf.


3) Simeone’s Suicide Squad of twenty

This week, Yannick Carrasco-Ferreira’s $36 million move to the Chinese league was made official. The Belgian’s farewell statement talked about “new opportunities to grow and improve” and he pointed out that leaving “doesn’t mean” he’s “giving up” on playing for his national team. He forgot to mention, obviously, the huge salary he’s going to have at Dalian Yifang, owned by the powerful Wanda Corporation.

His departure was mirrored by Nico Gaitán, who also left in order to play for Dalian Yifang but was much less important in Simeone’s rotation. All in all, selling these two players has left Atleti’s squad quite thinned down, albeit in a very reliable way: Simeone only has twenty players available, three of whom are goalkeepers. His own ‘Suicide Squad’ is ready to work hard until the season ends in May.

4) 110% commitment: the example of Godín

Diego Godín is a legendary captain for Atlético for stuff like this. After losing quite a few teeth in their home game against Valencia, the Uruguayan got implants fitted in a heartbeat and took pills to ease the excruciating pain to be ready and available for his coach. He was out for only 10 days. 


5) All-in for the epic showdown at Camp Nou


The current standings say that Barcelona are dominating the season with 65 points, seven more than the 58 that Atlético (second) proudly sport. After their game mid-week against Leganés, Simeone’s men will visit Nou Camp at the weekend for the match that could seal the deal for Barça if their get another victory… or definitely open the possibilities if the away team manages to reap a huge win. An Atlético upset could narrow it to a four-point difference with 11 games to go.

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