Atletico Madrid’s poor disciplinary record is threatening the club’s domestic and European title charge this season.
Diego Simeone’s side have been labeled “violent” by sections of the media. However, while the team’s style of play might not be as visually appealing as other clubs, Atletico have been praised by opposing managers for their cohesion and fierce competitiveness since Simeone assumed leadership at the club.
In just over three years, Atletico have won a Europa League title, the UEFA Super Cup, Spanish Super Cup, Copa del Rey and a La Liga title – while also finishing as Champions League runners-up last season.
This season, Los Colchoneros are in third place in La Liga and have advanced to the Champions League Round of 16.
However, injuries and suspensions have deprived the Spanish champions of key players during crucial matches. While injuries can’t be avoided, what can be ignored is the poor discipline of Atletico players over the course of this season.
Last season, the team accumulated four red cards and 150 bookings. Now, in March, they are on eight red cards and 143 bookings with 12 La Liga matches left to play and at least one more UEFA Champions League game on their schedule. That’s simply too many for a club that aspires to compete for domestic and European titles.
Of course, Atletico’s performance was expected to drop off following last summer’s departures of Diego Costa, Thibaut Courtois and Filipe Luis. However, the club did a fantastic job of replacing those players, and the new signings have assimilated quickly to Simeone’s coaching philosophy.
But during the manager’s tenure in Spain, Simeone’s teams have never had depth. While his starting eleven has been full of class, there is a drop off in talent once the manager has to turn to his bench. That’s why it is important for Atletico’s key players to keep their composure and stay out of the referee’s book.
Last weekend, Antoine Griezmann missed the team’s crucial match against top four challengers Valencia due to yellow card accumulation. Earlier this season, Arda Turan and Raul Garcia were suspended for an important domestic and European cup matches.
And, next week, Atletico will be without midfielder Tiago and centre-back Diego Godin when they take on Bayer Leverkusen in their crucial Champions League Round of 16 return leg at the Vicente Calderon – with Spanish champions trailing 1-0 from the first leg.
Should Atletico be knocked out of the competition and fall short in in its title defense in Spain, most will point to the summertime departures from the club. But it’s the team’s poor disciplinary record that is threatening its championship hopes.
Programming note: Espanyol vs. Atletico Madrid will be shown LIVE on Saturday starting at 10:55am EST on beIN SPORTS en Español and DishWorld.
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