Atletico Madrid cannot go on tiptoeing
It is often argued that for Atletico Madrid to win LaLiga Santander, Real Madrid and Barcelona must both have an unusually poor season. Well then, there you have it, Atletico. Madrid and Barcelona are off. It would be unforgivable if Atletico did not take advantage of such an opportunity in such an unusual season. Being the only one of the usual top three to have won gives more encouragement to this possibility. But they still put in a mediocre display at Balaidos.
Although playing badly and winning is a sign of a champion, it is difficult to keep this up for a long time. But three or four matches a year, it is allowed and Atletico did what they had to against Celta Vigo. Atletico would be very wrong to believe that third or fourth place is satisfactory given this unique chance.
Los Blancos off the pace
Real Madrid are falling into bad habits of the recent past, like last season when they fell to newly-promoted Real Mallorca. Against Cadiz, defensive organisation, collective work, solidarity and effort were all lacking. Some of Zinedine Zidane’s most trusted men, like Isco and Marcelo, are like lithium batteries. They have already reached their maximum capacity and must be deposited, with honour. However, the big problem is scoring goals, with Karim Benzema relied on to do everything. while Luka Jovic is more a hindrance than a solution and Vinicius still is inconsistent in front of the posts.
Institutional breakdown, debt, Ousmane Dembele lost, Antoine Griezmann unseen, Leo Messi walking, Luis Suarez scoring goals at Atletico… Koeman knew he was in for a tough ride but the problems have arisen early.
Jose Bordalas helped him put things in perspective when it comes to the match itself. They know Barcelona off by heart in this league and what was special and different about the latest disappointment for the Catalans was the sight of a fully fit Messi unable to decide the game by himself.
When he scored 50 goals a season, walking was an art. Now that he is not reaching those figures, his contribution to the team’s game is less, he is in danger of turning the walk into a trek. A separate chapter could be written about Griezmann’s disappearance. Last season Ansu Fati overtook him on the left hand side and this season Pedri can overtake him in a more central role.