To the Atlético has made him dizzy at the worst moment, when the seasons are decided. The intractable team of the first half of the season, solid in defense and lethal in attack, has given way to one plagued by doubts both behind and above. The consequence has been the elimination in the Champions League, leaving a minor team image, and that their wide advantage at the head of the League has been drastically reduced.
Everything was fine in mid-February. With Chelsea just around the corner, the distance in the League was wide, enough to, if you knew how to manage well, be able to take the title seven years later. Atlético had a double duel against Levante pending, the first in Valencia postponed from the first day, then at Wanda Metropolitano. The difference over the second, Real Madrid, was five points, but with two games less played. On Barça, third, it was eight, with a less disputed match.
The draw against Levante (1-1) at the Ciutat de València on February 17 it was the second setback of the month, since two weeks before they had already drawn against Celta at the Wanda with a goal from the Galicians almost in discount. The distance, however, was still important. But just three days later, the defeat against Levante (0-2) It set off all the alarms: something was starting to go wrong. Dani Cárdenas, Granota goalkeeper that day, became the hero of the clash with ten saves and not a single goal conceded, a league record this season. The aim was no longer accompanying.
After the double moral blow against the Levantinists, Chelsea arrived. At the worst moment. And the match confirmed all fears: Atlético de Madrid was no longer the overwhelming team from October-November. An overly conservative approach cost him a good number of criticism of Simeone, who bet at 0-0 and went wrong, Chelsea won 0-1 with a goal from Oliver Giroud.
The important victory in Villarreal (0-2) straightened the course of the mattress ship, but the tie in the derby was another blow because of how it occurred: with Atlético at the top of the scoreboard, the team fell far back and Benzema ended up drawing for Real Madrid. The colchoneros had let a direct rival for the title come out alive.
Marcos Llorente, the fittest player on the team, and Luis Suárez saved the colchoneros against Athletic, but last Saturday, in Getafe, the ghosts of the lack of a goal returned. The goalless draw at the Coliseum left Barça just four points behind and Real Madrid six. Atlético de Madrid had brought the two greats of the competition back into the fight.
Problems with injuries and several players with coronavirus clearly affected the team’s performance. In this long month, players like Yannick Carrasco, Thomas Lemar, Joao Félix or Mario Hermoso have not been available in various games, in addition to Kieran Trippier, who has been without playing for more than two months due to his disciplinary sanction.
One player has been especially noted for his irregular performance: Joao Félix. The Portuguese lost his place in the eleven and has been a substitute in four of the last six league games, including the decisive derby against Real Madrid. Two goals in 14 games in this 2021 is the meager balance of a footballer called to make a difference, for which 127 million euros were paid and who does not finish exploding … or connecting with Cholo. The Argentine coach either taunts him or defends him, depending on the day, but it is evident that he is not a member of his Praetorian guard.
In London, against Chelsea, the most worrying thing was not that there was no comeback, it was the image that Atlético gave. “You have to congratulate your rival when he is superior,” Simeone acknowledged after the crash. “This Champions League cost us from the beginning, it cost us and we have to accept it, it is reality, we have to continue improving,” added Cholo, aware that they have not made the grade in Europe.
Worrying was also the change of Luis Suárez at the time of the game, with the colchoneros needing two goals to qualify. His face, his gestures when leaving, augur future problems. Although the reality of the Uruguayan is that he has not scored a goal away from home in the Champions League since October 2015. A terrible fact.