Can Atlético Madrid Beat Barcelona?
Since Valencia won La Liga 10 years ago, the title has since switched between El Clásico rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid. With the league having resumed after the winter break, Atlético Madrid are tied with Barcelona with 49 points at the top of the league and have a legit chance of breaking the streak.
After Radamel Falcao left for Monaco and was replaced by David Villa, the squad began to play with a more balanced attack offensively. Falcao’s outstanding production and form has been replaced by Diego Costa. Last year, the 25-year-old had 20 goals in 44 appearances and this year the Spaniard/Brazilian is on fire. In an interview with Eurosport, Atlético’s sporting director Jose Luis Caminero discussed the squad’s transfer policy and how it always has to sell its best players:
“It means I’m doing my job well. To interest the biggest clubs in the world, like we do, shows that we are producing and developing excellent footballers. It’s also the reality. Atleti is a big club, but not the biggest. Other clubs have more money and will try and spend that on our players. If we sell a player, then another player gets a chance. Would Diego Costa be doing how he is if Radamel Falcao was still here? He’s having the best moments of his career. We’ve been satisfied with how we’ve conducted ourselves in the transfer market. The money also helps us get control of our debts. That was important given UEFA’s financial fair play directive. We’re in a good position.”
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Manager Diego Simeone’s 4-4-2 formation does not attack in a conventional way. They prefer to play more defensively by pressing very high and counterattacking for goals. Their forwards want to collect the ball wide then drift to the middle to create scoring opportunities. This method has worked well for Costa and Villa because they have been secondary strikers to superior players so they are used to playing wide and moving into great positions to gain possession of the ball. Simeone enjoys playing four technically gifted players in his midfield to help create scoring chances for themselves or others in position. Midfielders Koke and Gabi have been the sparkplugs in their attack so far this season. Koke has been doing a solid job on the wide left working defensively. Gabi, the team’s captain, has led the side in a deeper role while beginning the attack through the middle. Arda Turan on the wide right has provided another creative player to create in the flanks and Tiago has been the muscle in the middle preventing attacks from opposition. Raúl García, in a super-sub role, has flourished in his appearances.
The backline of Atletico Madrid has been outstanding. The partnership between Diego Godín and Miranda has been excellent in central defense while fullbacks Juanfran and Filipe Luís have been aggressive to help stop attacks and being in great position to help recover the ball when their side loses it. Chelsea has allowed Thibaut Courtois to blossom into a very good goalkeeper in Spain and it remains an error that José Mourinho let him leave London this season. The addition of José Sosa on loan shows that Atlético are serious with their aspirations and adds another boost to their midfield as Sosa arrives from Ukrainian squad Metalist Kharkiv to improve his chances of playing for Argentina in the World Cup.
Los Rojiblancos face a pivotal match this weekend when they host Barcelona. The result of this match will be an excellent indicator on if they are a serious threat to end the hegemony the El Clásico participants have put up. If Atlético can continue the form, they ended 2013 with then silverware can be in their future.
Editor’s note: For more Atleti analysis, opinion and news, visit the Atletico Madrid team page.