Can Atletico Madrid become the first team since Valencia in 2003/04 season to win the Spanish league and as a result break Real-Barca duopoly? Yes, they can but unfortunately won’t, at least not this season or even the next.
Despite Atletico’s blip against Valencia last weekend, it had been win after win for them, and some people are even starting to predict the end of Real-Barca dominance.
They remained unbeaten, level on points with Barcelona at the top of the table, with their star striker Falcao in fine form until Diego Simeon’s team showed the inevitable signs of vulnerability in the 2-0 defeat.
Atletico’s last Spanish league success was in 1995/96 and some pundits and fans alike believe this could be their season to shine but I say, no because Barca and Real are in a class of their own, which leaves them and the likes of Valencia, Malaga and Sevilla more of title pretenders than contenders.
Between their opening day draw against Levante and last weekend’s reverse at Valencia, Atletico won eight straight, putting them three points behind Barca and five ahead of their third-placed neighbours, Real Madrid.
Atletico have been traditionally one of the biggest teams in Spain, but they haven’t beaten Real in over a decade and are seeking to finish above them for the first time again in over a decade.
With nine La Liga titles to their name, only Real (32) and Barca (21) have won more, but problem is their brightest players tend to leave at their peak, for instance Torres, David de Gea, Forlan, and Sergio Aguero.
But despite operating on a very small budget visa vis Real and Barca’s, Atletico remain a team of some power and so it would be fitting for them and the neutrals alike if they could hold their nerve and break the duopoly of their awfully rich rivals.
They spent heavily for Falcao at the start of last season as a replacement for Aguero, but that investment looks better and better with every match.
Last week, I had a casual conversation with a colleague of mine, who happens to be a Real Madrid fanatic, and you could see that he genuinely thinks Atletico can win the league this season.
It was from our debate that I came up with the above headline—I told him and with reasons that Simeon’s side has not reached a level you can say they’re genuine contenders, at least not in a league with Barca and Real.
Since the appointment of, Simeone, rough-tackling Argentine midfielder during his playing days, Atletico have won the Europa League and the European Super Cup in convincing fashion, but La Liga is a long shot.
Last season, they finished a respectable fifth, they currently sit just behind Barca, and they’ve won all but one of their Europa League matches in the current campaign.
The big question, can they keep up with Vilanova’s side, one of the best teams on the planet, and, despite their five-point cushion over Real, can they stay ahead as Mourinho’s team have picked up the pace lately?
It’s still too early, and just as a reminder, last season Levante led the table until the tenth round, but they ultimately finished sixth. In 2008-09, Valencia were top after eight matches and finished sixth.
The difference though, is the fact that neither team was as strong as Atletico is at the moment, neither had a player as good as Falcao, and neither managed to win eight on the trot.
Their next league meeting is against Sevilla, who have already caused trouble for Barca and beat Real this season.
However, Atletico’s title credentials will be significantly tested, when they make a short trip to face Real in the Bernabeu on Dec. 1, and not too long after, another trip to the Nou Camp.
These two fixtures could be the tipping point for Atletico being taken as serious contenders but at the moment, uncertainty remains. Are they good enough to win the league or not? Maybe, but most probably not remains my stand.