For all that Diego Simeone has established Atlético Madrid as a force to be reckoned with domestically and in Europe, it always feels as though their fortunes are tied up in those of Real Madrid and Barcelona. Currently, Atlético have taken advantage of the struggles of both of their biggest rivals, and are sitting pretty at the top of La Liga.
But the longer the campaign goes on, the more nervous Atlético will become. Although they have been in and around the top three for the last decade or so, the chance to actually get their hands on the league title doesn’t come around often. It would be too simplistic to suggest that Atléti’s success this season is only the result of Barcelona and Real Madrid’s toils, simply because of the quality Simeone’s side possesses within their ranks.
Luis Suárez has been a revelation for the club. Since arriving from Barcelona in the summer, the Uruguayan has scored 16 league goals and leads the running for the Golden Boot. He was in good form recently as he notched a brace against Celta Vigo, but a late equaliser from the visitors meant Atlético could only secure a point. That result will hardly represent panic stations for Simeone, but they won’t want to give up an inch with so much of the season still to go.
Of course, as well as their quest for the La Liga title, Atlético Madrid have the small matter of the Champions League knockout stage to contend with. They face Chelsea in the last 16, and optimistic fans of the Spanish side will be dreaming about winning both the domestic title and the Champions League. Simeone has twice led the team to the final of Europe’s premier club competition, but on both occasions, they have lost out to their city rivals Real Madrid.
Without doubt, Simeone has winning the Champions League on his coaching bucket list, and you can bet that his team will be taking the competition very seriously. It’s going to be a tough task, as new Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has inspired the English club into a bit of good form, but given Chelsea’s indifferent form across the season as a whole, Simeone will fancy his side’s chances of reaching the quarter-finals.
Atlético Madrid are masters at making life difficult for opponents in the Champions League, as was demonstrated last season when they knocked defending champions Liverpool out of the competition at the last 16 stage. That’s why Atléti are the slight favourites for the tie in the UEFA Champions League betting and odds.
The team will have been bitterly disappointed at the way they bowed out to RB Leipzig in the quarter-finals last year, and there will be a concerted effort to put things right. Of course, it’s vital that Atlético do not allow their domestic form to suffer as a result of their quest for European glory.
Winning a domestic league and the Champions League in the same season is an incredibly difficult task, and it’s not something many sides have done in the past. But the doggedness and determination of Atlético Madrid means it’s not an achievement you would put beyond them.
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