Over the past ten seasons, Barcelona and Real Madrid have finished first and second in La Liga eight times. During that time, only two clubs have been able to break through the Spanish giants’ dominance of the Primera Division: Valencia (who finished in first place in 2003/04) and Villarreal (who were runners-up in 2007/08). The past three seasons, Barcelona and Real Madrid have finished in the top two each year with the next closest Spanish team (third place) trailing them by an average of twenty-two points.
Last season, Atletico Madrid finished in third place and along the way won the UEFA Super Cup before topping off their season with a defeat of Real Madrid in El Copa del Rey; a victory which ended a 14-year (25-match) winless streak in El Derbi Madrileño. A few months later, at the start of the 2013/14 season, Atleti once again walked into the Santiago Bernabeu and beat their local rivals, 1-0.
As of today, Atletico Madrid are level with Barcelona on points (40) after 15 games in La Liga; the two clubs are only separated by goal difference (Barcelona-33, Atletico Madrid-31). Los Colchoneros have already defeated their closest competitors, Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao; they settled for a 1-1 draw against fifth-place Villarreal.
A pinnacle match of this season will take place on January 12 when Barcelona travels to Madrid for what looks like a head-to-head battle between Spain’s current top two clubs. If both teams hold to form and Atleti come out on top of that matchup, the club will finally have the footballing world’s attention. Something they have truly deserved up to this point.
Before the start of the season, there weren’t many football experts picking Atletico Madrid to be competing with Barcelona and Real Madrid for the top spot in La Liga. But the facts are, over the past four seasons Atletico Madrid has won two Europa League titles, two UEFA Super Cups, and a Copa del Rey title. The alarming thing about these accomplishments is the Atleti were able to win this silverware while selling off major talent to other European clubs.
The summer transfer of Radamel Falcao from Atletico Madrid to AS Monaco could be the last time the Spanish side has to sell one of their prized players to another team. This season, the club renewed the contracts of many of their young players through 2016 and 2018. So goal scorers Diego Costa, David Villa and Raul Garcia will continue to benefit from the playmaking skills of young midfielders Koke and Óliver Torres during future seasons. While Atletico’s defense will continue to be solidified by the stonewall centre-backing pair of Diego Godin and Miranda.