William takes a look at Atletico Madrid and considers whether the next week or so could define their season.
We may be only seven matches into the La Liga season, yet Atlético Madrid have already signalled their title intent, sitting top of the pile on fifteen points. Ominously for fellow favourites Barcelona and Real Madrid, Diego Simeone’s side have yet to lose a game in all competitions. Indeed, since two rather unimpressive draws against Alaves and Leganes to kick-start the campaign, Atleti have won six of their last seven matches. This spectacular run of form includes an impressive 1-0 home victory over Bayern München and a hard-fought point at the Camp Nou against the reigning champions Barcelona.
Whilst Luis Enrique’s side have struggled with squad rotation (succumbing 4-3 in an enthralling match to Celta Vigo), and with Real Madrid’s recent, rather curious, inability to win a game of football having drawn their last four games, Atlético have a fantastic chance to take advantage and really stake a claim for this season’s crown having fallen just short in last season’s campaign. It is absolutely vital they take advantage of their rival’s struggles; they do not tend to last long. Atleti will be aware that a sizeable margin at the top is the prerogative at this present moment given the inevitable drop off in form they will experience later in the season given the limited size of the squad, Simeone’s reluctance to rotate and the awesome number of competitions in which they are currently involved. As such, a pivotal week in Atlético’s season waits. Following Saturday’s home clash with Granada and a midweek trip to Russia to face FK Rosto, a colossal clash at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán could define their season. Sevilla themselves are in a rich vein of form, currently sitting third in the league standings, yet boast a woeful home record against Atleti, having not won against them in the league since 2010.
Undoubtedly key to any success for the Los Rojiblancos will be the form and fitness of talisman Antoine Griezmann. Having broken the deadlock against Valencia last time out, his 50th goal in his last 81 La Liga appearances, the Frenchman is in spectacular form. Atleti fans will be rejoicing at club legend and captain Gabi’s decision to accept a one year contract extension, having previously feared the Spaniard may be tempted by early retirement or seeking pastures new at the end of the current season. The news underlines the midfielder’s importance to the squad, as he has been a mainstay in the team during Simeone’s tenure.
William is one of our three Spanish football experts. You can find him on twitter at @williamfbolton