Atlético's passion: the nine phases of a year for glory or bitterness

The Athletic he depends on himself to win his eleventh league title this Saturday. In Valladolid a season that only has two possible endings will end: the euphoria for the title achieved seven years after that League won at Camp Nou or the disappointment at the loss of a trophy that many took for granted when he had more than ten points of advantage over his great rivals.

PHASE 0: A ‘rocket’ from the stop

It could be said that the good time for the rojiblancos did not come with the start of the season, but that it occurred after the return of football due to the stoppage caused by the COVID-19. The rojiblancos were sixth, away from the Champions League, and finished the League third and with ten points of margin compared to fifth place.

PHASE 1: The great signing of the year

The new faces weren’t many, although they were important. Atlético took a Luis Suarez whom Barcelona wanted to separate from Messi, who soon showed that he needed little to show his talent. His two goals against Granada in the first Wanda Metropolitano game showed that he was not coming to Madrid for a walk. The Uruguayan occupied the site of a Alvaro Morata that was loaned to Juve.

The main casualty was that of Thomas Partey, which left once the League started due to the Arsenal ‘clause’. The Londoners in return allowed the arrival of a Torreira who could not be the protagonist at almost any time of the season.

PHASE 2: Not so good start

Although the memory takes us to the most authoritarian moments of Simeone’s, Atlético were not so bossy at the start of the League. Yes he billed six goals at Granada, but later signed two goalless draws against Huesca and Villarreal. In addition, the premiere in the Champions League ended with win conceded in Munich. 4-0 for the team that had done 8 to Barça and that had been proclaimed champion on August 23.

PHASE 3: Consolidation

Atlético was able to recover the other way around with a streak of eleven games without losing between the League and the Champions League. The most important, the one achieved in the Metropolitano against Barcelona with a goal from Yannick Carrasco, a man who this year was once again essential in the rojiblanco attack despite the fact that he had to defend from the left side in many games.

The action of Carrasco’s goal against Barcelona. / Getty Images

PHASE 4: Madrid’s moles … and the Cup

Although they had already shown considerable strength and were leaders, Atlético fell to Real Madrid in Valdebebas on December 12. The 2-0 – added to the 0-0 of the Metropolitan – was key for the whites to reach the final chapter of the League with the possibility of being champions in the event of a tie on points between the two.

The defeat did not change the course of the team, which said goodbye to Diego Costa by an agreement between the player and the club. He knew that he could contribute little with his physical condition and the presence of Suárez. No equipment found yet.

The main setback at that time of the season was the elimination in the Cup against Cornellà. The substitutes, a condition that at that time already had such important men as Saúl or the Portuguese Joao Félix, did not respond to the opportunity. Neither did a Kondogbia newcomer.

PHASE 5: Recovering matches

The calendar brought the moment to adjust the classification based on recovering games postponed due to the delayed start of the championship that the teams that had played in the Champions League in August had. The storm Filomena it also forced a match against Athletic to be postponed. In January the match against Sevilla on matchday 1 was played. It ended with a 2-0 victory, but the skid came with that whim of fate that made Atlético play two games in a row against him. Levante: tie in Valencia (1-1) and defeat in the Metropolitano (0-2).

Levante players celebrate one of their goals at the Metropolitano.

Levante players celebrate one of their goals at the Metropolitano. / Getty Images

At that time, the team could not count on Trippier by a FIFA sanction. It was a difficult setback for Simeone, who at times was forced to pull Marcos Llorente to the side. It also influenced that COVID entered the locker room, with positives from Carrasco, Hermoso, Lodi, Herrera, Joao Félix, Lemar, Diego Simeone and a Dembélé, who had arrived in the winter market to reinforce the attack.

PHASE 6: Decreasing income

Atlético had to face the knockout stages of the Champions League against him Chelsea while he began to see how his difference with Barcelona and Real Madrid was reduced. The 0-1 conceded against Tuchel’s in Romania said that this sprint was not going to be easy. A few days later, Simeone’s men drew at home against Real Madrid (1-1) but were definitively eliminated by Chelsea with the resounding 2-0 registered in London. The Madrid team had no options in that tie.

Three more games made it clear that Atlético was going to have to suffer to win a title that only a few weeks ago seemed to be close: the defeat to Sevilla, the draw against Betis and the defeat at San Mamés. The rojiblanco team was fortunate that Barcelona and Real Madrid did not take advantage of their failures, which allowed Atlético to always see the leader.

PHASE 7: The reaction (with suffering)

Again, following all of Simeone’s mottos, from “match by match” to which he says that “the effort is not negotiable”, the block rose to beat Elche, draw at the Camp Nou with a spectacular game and defeat the Real Sociedad and Osasuna. In all those matches there were significant doses of suffering: the penalty in the discount thrown by Fidel to the stick, the response of the Real when they lost 2-0, the goal of Budimir that, together with Madrid’s victory in Bilbao, made Zidane’s team the momentary leader… Despite all that, Atlético came to the fore at the final moment.

The penalty taken by Fidel to the stick in injury time.

The penalty taken by Fidel to the stick in injury time. / Getty Images

PHASE 8: The moment of truth

It will be the shortest phase, but the most important of the rojiblanca season. For Atlético it is worth doing the same as Real Madrid to be champion. He will face a Valladolid in a hurry to be in relegation places and pending almost a miracle. The Metropolitan’s match, which ended 2-0 with goals from Lemar and Marcos Llorente, will then be useless. Back then the points were important. Now they are vital to both.

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