The defeat in Bilbao and the possibility that Barcelona could take the lead if they beat Granada gave Atlético the kind of atmosphere that heralds a crisis. Internal criticism of Diego Pablo Simeone surfaced in the hours after the meeting in San Mamés (2-1). Not going out for the game from the start, having repeated the eleven for the third consecutive duel, the substitutions and their relays and even the defensive strategy in the corner kick that he headed free of mark Íñigo Martínez were indicated in the Argentine coach’s debit by senior employees and leaders of the rojiblanca entity.
Of the four coaches who have their teams immersed in the fight for the league title, it is Simeone who will carry the most the poster of having lost the championship if Atlético were not proclaimed champion. It will also be one of the four technicians who further enhances his status as a myth if he manages to get his players to finish for the second time in seven years with the Barça-Madrid league duopoly.
Converted into Atlético de Simeone, he has been publicly assuming responsibility for each slip that the team has had for weeks. As the pursuers cut the substantial distance from points that Atlético enjoyed, Cholo has emerged as the protective shield of a dressing room from which complaints about his conduct in recent games also began to emanate. In turn, Simeone has also looked askance at the actions and reactions of the club that he considered could distract the company team from winning the League. He saw with good eyes that Miguel Ángel Gil Marín came out to deny that Saúl was for sale at a bargain price, but the schism that was looming with the fans against joining the Super League considered that it could be harmful to the group. He worked as a club man when he was the first coach to be asked about the birth of the groundbreaking competition – “we will play where they tell us,” he said – but he calmed down and the soul of a fan within him sprouted when the club decided to get off the project: “We all belong to football. Before being footballers and coaches, we are fans ”.
The pessimism that posed at Atlético during the last days and exploded after the stumble in Bilbao has given way to a good dose of renewed optimism after Granada’s triumph at the Camp Nou. “As I am a positive person, I do not think about negative things,” Simeone replied this Friday when asked if it would be a failure to lose this League. Nothing to do with the landscape that he drew when there were 11 days left, and imbued with a prophetic spirit, after drawing in Getafe (0-0), he ventured that Real Madrid and Barcelona would win all the games. “They are not going to lose more,” he said at the time. Reality says that in the six subsequent games, Koeman’s team has lost two appointments (Real Madrid and Granada) and Zidane’s team has given up two draws to zero in the last two games they have played (Getafe and Betis).
With two points of advantage over Madrid and Barcelona and three over Sevilla, Simeone enters the framework of the last five games that he himself established as the final ones, breaking with the ten games of the so-called Luis’ League. Elche, in need of points to save themselves, awaits him this Saturday (16.15, Movistar LaLiga) as the first obstacle in the final race for the title. And the rojiblanco coach seems willing to die with his ideas and his tastes. João Félix has not trained with the starters in previous training sessions. The substitutions of the Portuguese will be one of the great derivatives of what happens from here to the end. Simeone will win or lose the League in the remaining five games. And it will be calculated if he did it with the Portuguese as the protagonist or antagonist.