Los Rojiblancos might upset the European heavyweights this season
Diego Simeone’s side got the better of reigning European champions Liverpool and dumped Jurgen Klopp’s men out of the competition in the last-16 of the Champions League.
Atletico Madrid will be looking to put their domestic campaign behind them when they take on Julian Nagelsmann’s RB Leipzig in the Champions League quarter-final tie later this week.
Their form since the resumption of football in June make Diego Simeone’s side favorites to go through from the clash. The Rojiblancos are yet to lose a game over the last two months and have won seven and drawn four of their last 11 La Liga games.
That they have turned a corner after an underwhelming start to the campaign can be gauged from the fact that Atleti haven’t lost a game since their defeat in the Madrid derby at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu at the start of February.
Over the course of that period they have navigated tricky fixtures like Liverpool home and away, a trip to the Camp Nou to face Barcelona at the end of June, difficult clashes against the likes of Athletic Bilbao, Sevilla and an away trip to high-flying Real Betis without suffering a defeat in the process.
There was some merit to the criticism that came the way of their strikers. The likes of Diego Costa, Alvaro Morata and club-record signing Joao Felix were toothless in the opposition half and Atletico were able to score only 31 goals in 27 games before the three-month break.
However, just as the resumption of football spurred their city rivals Real Madrid to pip Barcelona to the league title, it seems as if Atletico’s strikers also worked hard on their shooting skills in the 90-day break that they endured during the middle of the season.
Atleti have scored 20 goals in 11 games since the lockdown, with Alvaro Morata, Joao Felix, Diego Costa, Marcos Llorente, Yannick Carrasco, Vitolo, Koke, Saul and even Thomas Partey stepping up and contributing to the goal-scoring department.
Many people thought that the departures of Diego Godin, Felipe Luis, Juanfran and Lucas Hernandez from the scene would cause Atleti’s strengths in defense to wane.
That didn’t turn out to be the case. The new faces that Simeone brought in to replace the departed quartet have settled well and, with Jan Oblak marshalling from the back, have allowed Los Rojiblancos to retain its reputation as a side that doesn’t give goals away.
Hence the reason why their defensive form has been excellent once again this season. Atleti managed to concede only 27 goals in 38 La Liga appearances to turn their average early-season form around and finish in the top four of the Spanish top-flight.
Jan Oblak deserves major credit for the side’s defensive solidity as the Chelsea linked shot-stopper saved 11 of the 13 shots that Liverpool aimed at him during the two sides Champions League clash at Anfield. His form also gives Atletico the hope to go all the way this season in Europe.
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