Depleted Atletico Madrid look to close the gap on Barcelona

Simeone

Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone will be hopeful that his side can close the gap on La Liga leaders Barcelona, with a win at bottom of the table Huesca this weekend.

With the Catalan side not playing until Sunday night, at home to Leganes, Atletico have a chance to narrow the gap between first and second place from five points to two, in Game Week 20.

The former Argentine international could not have asked for an easier game in theory, with their hosts ten points adrift of safety in the Spanish top flight, and with just one win in their last 18 league games.

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Atletico Madrid could suffer mass summer exodus

Diego Godin

Atletico Madrid could be set for a summer of mass change with defensive trio Juanfran, Filipe Luis and Diego Godin all entering the final six months of their respective contracts. The three experienced defenders are all out of contract at the Wanda Metropolitano in June and there is a serious possibility that all three will depart the club.

It could lead to a serious shortage of defenders at Los Rojiblancos, with Lucas Hernandez also linked with a summer switch to Bayern Munich, who have been reported as attempting to activate his €80m release clause. It could lead to a break-up of what is arguably European football’s best drilled back-line. Continue reading

Lucas Hernandez exit would be disaster for Atletico Madrid

Lucas Hernandez

With everything that he has already achieved in his career, it is easy to forget that Lucas Hernandez  is only a 22-year-old. Perhaps it is because of his physical frame or the fact he is a year older than brother Theo, or maybe it is because he is already an elite defender.

Just ahead of La Liga’s final round of matches before the winter break, Marca broke the news that the French defender had agreed a four-year contract with Bayern Munich. The German champions, the report claimed, had already met his €80m release clause. It is news that threatens to derail Diego Simeone’s project at Los Rojiblancos. Continue reading

Nothing between the La Liga chasing pack

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With just one game remaining ahead of the La Liga winter break, the race to catch Barcelona remains incredibly tight.

Pablo Machin’s Sevilla are in second place, three points behind the Catalans, with Atletico Madrid in third, on goal difference.

Santiago Solari’s Real Madrid, who have improved since his arrival, are up to fourth -three points behind Atletico.

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Juventus will face Atletico Madrid in the Champions League round of 16

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Despite grabbing the top spot in the group, the Nyon draw was not kind to Juventus and it paired Juve with the fiery Atletico Madrid for the round of 16 of the Champions League. The first leg will be played in the Spanish Capital on February 20th, the second one in Turin on March 12th. The two teams played together just twice in their history, but the matches are recent and date back to the group stage of the 2014 edition: the Colchoneros won one-nothing at home and then the two sides shared the spoils in a nil-nil draw at the Juventus Stadium. Both teams advanced. Continue reading

Have Atletico Madrid already blown La Liga title?

atletico

Atletico Madrid may be only three points off the top of La Liga but there is a growing sense they have already blown their best chance of a league title since their 2014 triumph. In fact, the possibility of them lifting the Spanish title this year is seemingly significantly higher than it was whenever they pipped Barcelona on the final day five seasons ago.

The Catalan giants are once more at the top of the pile but have already dropped 14 points from their opening 14 games and the title race has been, until now, wide open. Diego Simeone’s men must surely be cursing their own failures to reach their potential – which is so much more than 25 points in the same time frame. Continue reading

Just 6 points separate Sevilla in 1st place from Girona in 7th in exciting season for La Liga

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What a season it has been so far in the Spanish La Liga title race. Instead of, as in recent seasons Barcelona or Real Madrid taking off and not being seen for dust, both teams have had their struggles in recent weeks and the league remains wide open as we approach December- when is the last time we could say that?

Indeed take away Atletico Madrid’s superb title win in 2014 and there hasn’t been a different winner of the league apart from Barca and Real since the 2003-04 season when Valencia won it. What is also interesting is since then Barcelona has only failed to finish in the top 2 places in one season. In the last 14 years, 11 have finished with either Barca or Real Madrid taking the first two spots.

Of course the quality of football has been superb- even spellbinding at times and no one can argue against that. But for competitive games the Spanish league sure has come up short and we have been left with the same old song and dance of the majority of teams not just being able to challenge for the league but being so far from the top and the league title having that sinking feeling that it is virtually over by Christmas. Not so this season.

The first surprise is seeing Sevilla top of the league, not because they are a poor team but just the fact that it isn’t either Barca or Real sitting there. It is to put it mildly a revelation. Of course Barcelona are right there in 2nd place just a point behind but then again they have Atletico Madrid and Alaves breathing down their necks. And then there is the curious case of Real Madrid, Ronaldo less and showing it in 6th place. The team that have won an incredible 3 Champions League’s in a row won’t be in next seasons competition if the league was to end now.

It’s incredible to think how the league has simply opened up but then again some of the other teams namely Sevilla and Atletico Madrid have plugged away, bought well in the summer and made their threat real. But there has also been change at the super clubs. Andres Iniesta leaving Barcelona was certainly a big deal. Cristiano Ronaldo leaving for Juventus was a big change for Madrid who had become so reliant on him for the past decade. But also Real have suffered the departure of Zinedine Zidane, brought in Julen Lopetegui, sacked him and replaced him with Santiago Solari- for them it is the mid 2000′s all over again.

Realistically some of the teams will fall away and both Barcelona and Real Madrid should be able to find the form to mount a reasonable title challenge. But the likes of Atletico and Sevilla look like they will be sticking around for a while yet and could cause between them a major shock this season in Spain which nobody would have saw coming before the beginning of the season.

Thierry Henry gets first win with Monaco but a testing month awaits

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Thierry Henry finally achieved his first win as Monaco coach after his side beat Caen 1-0 at the weekend. It was a deserved victory too and means that Henry could celebrate for the first time in 7 games.

Monaco are still in the bottom three but there was a huge sense of relief after the win from the players and Henry. It meant so much and means that Henry’s win rate leaped up to 14%. After the game Henry said: “I am happy for the team and the supporters. We needed that, even if we were not completely in control of the match. We could have been out of sight sooner, and in football you don’t know what can happen. Caen like to get crosses in quickly, they fight, and we knew what to expect. The manner in which we get results is important, but we will worry about that later. (Radamel) Falcao showed that he is Falcao. He is the captain, he is there to score goals.”

Henry also realised what lies ahead for the club in the coming weeks. “We went out and got this victory, and it can help bring us some peace. It is always better when you win, but we are not getting carried away. This is just the beginning. There are still lots of matches and battles to come. I am especially happy for the squad, for all the work they have put in and not been rewarded, but we are still in the relegation zone.”

Henry talked about battles ahead and he is exactly right on that point. It all commences for Henry and Monaco this Wednesday when they must travel to Spain in the Champions League to face Atletico Madrid, Monaco can be quoted at 16/1 to win the game which pretty much says it all. There is some hope for a Europa League spot for the side but even those hopes may seem faint after this game.

After that Monaco return to Ligue 1 action against Montpellier who have been in fine form so far. They play Amiens away which could be a possible win and then come the 3 really hard fixtures. Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League and Lyon. Monaco will also face Nice in what is always a special derby and this season will have the extra spice of Henry going head to head with his old Arsenal teammate Patrick Vieira, who is doing very well with Nice.

If Monaco can get something from these games then we will know if Henry can and has created some sort of turnaround miracle. The Caen win has given Henry reasons to be cheerful but he will want that momentum to continue. A defeat looks inevitable against Atletico in a few days but that game will be all about not getting stuffed for many goals and keeping the score predictable. The next 3 weeks will be a fascinating time at Monaco, that is for sure.

Diego Costa struggles threatens to derail Atletico Madrid

Diego Costa

Monday’s edition of Marca highlighted an issue which is developing into a potentially season-defining one in La Liga. Title hopefuls Atletico Madrid lie just one point from the league’s summit but have scored eight goals fewer than second-placed Sevilla and a whopping 18 fewer than league leaders Barcelona.

Perhaps the greatest issue lies with Diego Costa, who returned to the club a year ago, who has not found the back of the net in La Liga since February. It is a run of 18 league games of which nine have come this season, meaning that there is a real lack of a cutting edge with Atleti. Continue reading

La Liga Best XI – Week 12

williamsWith the latest round of La Liga taking place this past weekend, it is now time to cast our minds back and see which players performed their roles the best for their clubs. There were, as always, some quality games on display – Barcelona losing for only the second time this season at home to Real Betis was something of a shock, while Real Madrid made it two wins on the bounce with their 4-2 win at Celta Vigo. We will be adopting a 4-3-3 this week, so let’s get to it.

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