On Saturday, after Atlético’s first defeat at home (0-2 against Levante) was certified and the fight for the League was enlivened, Diego Pablo Simeone held on to the push and the fence of the area to which his players subjected the rival in the second half. In the locker room, the coach tried to lift the spirits and mitigate the possible doubts of the squad by ensuring that the reaction, although without the expected result, responded to that of a team fully immersed in the conquest of the title. The 20 shots on Cárdenas’ goal registered in the second half, for a total of 28 – the best figure in a match in the Simeone era – were used by the coach as proof that the team had responded to the difficulty of the scoreboard. against the orderly opposition of the Levante of Paco López.
The defeat, however, confirmed that Atlético has lost in recent games the reductionist argument with which the Argentine coach explains the high and low peaks of his team: the forcefulness in both areas. He has received several goals for individual errors and has lost efficiency in the auction. This pothole in their own area and in that of the rival has been confirmed in the previous match of the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 against Chelsea, which will be played this Tuesday in Bucharest due to restrictions in Spain on flights from the UK. The rojiblanca expedition traveled this Sunday afternoon with the resentment of the lost points advantage in the League and the need to rearm emotionally.
Simeone waited for this moment and when it has arrived he has insisted on a speech that he had prepared for when the results did not arrive and any of his pursuers cut distances. The coach has started a psychological work to prevent the collapse of a group that for the second time in history had reached 50 points in the first round and had positioned itself as the great favorite to win the tournament.
The problem for the rojiblanco coach is the recomposition of a team and a drawing, 5-3-2, to which casualties due to covid-19 and muscle injuries have been reducing performance and have forced him to rebuild it when it seemed that he already had an eleven armed. The reliability of the system is now in question and the possibility of recovering the 4-4-2 with which Simeone always managed is no longer ruled out. In the second half against Levante he already did.
The first significant loss, that of Trippier due to sanction, has caused him a headache. Marcos Llorente’s solution has decomposed the center of the field and has made him lose volume of offensive play. The contagions of Lemar and Carrasco, now down against Chelsea due to muscular problems, have also deprived him during several meetings of two players who had fitted well in the new system of three centrals. The Belgian, as left lane, and the French, as the third creative midfielder. The virus also cut off João Félix’s reappearance after overcoming a blow to his right foot in the Cup tie. The accumulation of absences has forced Simeone to rebuild the line-up and he did not find the same performance in which they entered. Neither Lodi, Felipe, Kondogbia, Torreira or Saúl have had very convincing performances.
The result of such a setback has been a less brilliant and vigorous team than the one that started the course and marked distances with Real Madrid and Barcelona. In this last stretch of matches, Atlético is less solid in defense and less effective in attack. From the defensive hole, seven consecutive days conceding goals – the worst streak since Simeone led the rojiblancos – there were already significant signs in the last days. Also of a certain downturn in the game that the coach himself recognized from the inside. The team added several victories (Elche, Getafe, Alavés, Cádiz and Valencia) clinging to the huge punch of Luis Suárez. The goals of the Uruguayan striker served to win duels that last season used to end in a draw. The Uruguayan no longer scored in Granada (1-2), where Marcos Llorente was decisive, with a goal and an assist, for the conquest of the three points. In the tie with Levante in the Ciutat de València (1-1) and in the defeat on Sunday, also against the Granota team, he extended his days without scoring to three. Without the effectiveness of Suárez, Atlético has given up the five points that they have proclaimed that they will see the title dispute again.