Given the fact that Messi’s last three goals against Atletico Madrid have come from a combined distance (meaning Messi’s distance from Atletico Madrid’s goal line the moment he hit the ball for his first goal plus second goal distance plus third goal distance) of approximately 18 yards (Seriously. Check it out here and here and here), Ronaldo could be forgiven for the two absolute sitters (by his lofty standards) he botched against Atletico Madrid. Perhaps, Real Madrid fans can take comfort in the fact that there is no way in God’s green earth that Messi could have scored that header which Ronaldo put right at the dead center of Atletico’s goal.
So how did Atletico Madrid manage to derail any hope Real Madrid had of winning La Liga?
Well, it’s simply really. At Least when you watch it on TV.
Atletico Madrid played smart and never really tried to get a result from the game which normally happens when two teams are chasing another team which is way ahead of the first two teams. Get it?
Atlético Madrid frustrated Real Madrid. Real Madrid attacked more and more as the game went on and when Atletico Madrid had completely suckered Real Madrid into their own 18 yard box, they hit on the break and got Griezmann running at the central defenders.
Take nothing away from Griezmann’s finish but apart from that one touch, the whole game reeked of ‘tactical battles’ and ‘pragmatic play’.
And it’s not like Real Madrid tried either but to their credit Real Madrid players did follow the proper protocol. Which was, to never do anything that was out of the ordinary. Keep the ball, pass it to a teammate who is free and then move to the wings. When you get to the wings, decide if you want to cross the ball into the box or pull it back on the wings for Kroos or Modric who played the ball into a more central position.
Honestly, as people expected when Benitez was fired, you couldn’t tell just by looking at the match if Zidane was the manager or Benitez. Or even Capello which should further regurgitate the fact that was always true but never admitted by mainstream media. Manager don’t count much at all when it comes to a result of a football game.
So why did Real Madrid look like it was still under the reign of Benitez? Well, it was because of Simeone’s Atletico Madrid.
Let’s get one thing straight. Simeone’s style will not land him a job at any elite club no matter how many finals he gets to with a below average Atletico Madrid squad. The way he sets up his teams is boring, frustrating and a pain to watch.
Infact, it is almost as painful as it is to watch Barcelona squander all their talent in favour of diving, getting people sent off and making rude gestures to the away team’s fans while in a winning position.
Here is why I think that they only thing Madrid about Atletico Madrid is the club’s name and why it has become a poor man’s Barcelona:
1.Atletico like Barcelona play to win, though with a completely different style.
We all know that for each one of Messi’s gorgeous goals, there is a diving cheating Neymar or Busquets.
As has been discussed before, Barcelona plays to win even though it has to talent to play the game first and then think about winning. Football is not a business as I am sure the financial sheets of Real Madrid and Barcelona (add to that Manchester United as well if you like) would testify to.
So there is no point in playing football matches as if the sword of Damocles is hanging above your head. Barcelona doesn’t seem to give a damn about how it continues to destroy its image as an elite club with elite values. Right now Barcelona is a more like an elite club with thug values.
No one needs another lecture (or article) about how Barcelona won its so much vaunted Champions League titles but does Barcelona care?
Doesn’t seem like it otherwise they would have long gotten rid of players such as Busquets, Iniesta and Daniel Alves.
Atletico Madrid seem like an exact copy of Barcelona except that their players are probably drunks who wouldn’t mind getting killed on the football field.
Fair or foul, Simeone doesn’t care. He wants his players to go out there and let it hang out as long as results are achieved and targets met.
That is disgusting to say the least. Football is supposed to be a beautiful game even when defenders slide tackle or elbow another player while jumping for the ball.
If Capello and Mourinho represent the fundamentals of how to play boring result-oriented football then Atletico Madrid is the pinnacle of ugly, unattractive and ghoulish football that everyone loves to hate (except for Barcelona and Atletico Madrid fans).
Consider the statistic that before the derby match against Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid had not scored in over 300 minutes of on-field football.
Don’t worry, they hadn’t conceded either and that’s the problem. Atletico Madrid go into games with a 0-0 in mind and when the opposition commits mistakes in trying to go for a result rather than a draw, it sneaks up and stabs them from behind to steal the game 0-1 or at the very maximum 1-2 win.
The same tactic that was on display yesterday has left Real Madrid about twelve points behind Barcelona assuming Barcelona whoops Sevilla which it will, if not for a magical Messi assist then certainly because of richly talented diving Neymar.
Real Madrid wouldn’t get hurt by this ‘get results by any means necessary’ except for a few trophy counts. But people who pay to see Real Madrid in action will continue to do so in confidence of the fact that Real Madrid will always play to entertain not to dominate or just win.
2.Atletico Madrid players foul opponents when they are in threatening positions
And doesn’t that remind of a certain Busquets or Iniesta?
Atletico Madrid players put Real Madrid on starvation diet as far as space in the midfield was concerned but that wasn’t all. The most heinous of their crimes was bringing down Kroos, Modric and Isco just as they were about to release Ronaldo, James and Benzema with a killer through ball.
Atletico Madrid played kept Real Madrid players from launching effective counter attacks by conceding a dirty foul immediately following a successful attack of their own.
That kept the flow of the game in check and thus disabled Real Madrid to mount any sort of a counter attack.
When Real Madrid players did get chances to score goals, they fluffed them because of the simple thought in the back of their mind that if they miss this one important chance, it would take another eternity to reach this Atletico Madrid’s penalty box considering all the dirty fouls Atletico Madrid committed as soon as someone came close to releasing Ronaldo, from the midfield.
That is how Atletico Madrid wins (at least in Simeone’s mind) most of its games i.e by not allowing the opposition to build any sort of momentum.
Without momentum, a football team is about as useful as lips on a chicken. Real Madrid had no momentum throughout the duration of the game. Even when Real Madrid players did manage to build up some sort of team chemistry, Atletico Madrid quickly snuffed it out with, you guessed it, dirty fouls. Dirty fouls from behind, fouls from elbows and from stomps on feet.
The Real Madrid engine just could not get going. And that is why most level headed Real Madrid fans think that what Real Madrid needs is not another Ronaldo or Bale but a strongman in the midfield like Pogba. Hell get Yaya Toure on loan or how about bringing back Lassana Diarra who has had a terrific season in France with Marseille.
3.Like Barcelona’s trademark, Atletico Madrid players go down (or more like fall like chopped trees) when other team starts to put together a string of chances in succession.
And this is another reason why Real Madrid struggles against the likes of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
Firstly, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are legitimately strong teams and secondly, because when you manage to attack them, when you have ridden your luck and somehow come close to Atletico Madrid’s goal despite all the fouls and negative tactics, Atletico Madrid pulls out another one of its joker cards and just like that, one of Atletico players gets injured.
Initially, it looks like the player is terminally injured but as soon as the other team’s momentum as come to a naught (normally signalled by the coach himself after observing the atmosphere for a good twenty seconds without any action on the pitch), the player gets back up for another ‘duty calls’ moment.
This was another of those key points in Real Madrid’s loss to Atletico Madrid. As soon as Real Madrid players managed to get an attack going, someone from Simeone’s men just dropped on the floor as if he got hit by a truck on a highway.
It was just frustrating, especially towards the end of the game, to see Atletico Madrid players first throwing themselves into the ground then staying on the ground to give some respite to the other players on the rare occasions Real Madrid did manage to break through their defensive lines.
And that is not even the worst part. The worst part if when the referee acts like he has come directly on a early flight from officiating a WWE match or something.
Meaning, he doesn’t have a clue about what Atletico Madrid players have been trained to do and how to stop Atletico Madrid from further exploiting a lenient (some would say generous) system of allowing professional football players recovery time when they go down on the pitch.
4.Again, like Barcelona, Atletico Madrid players take years to make a substitution.
Ever heard of someone being as slow as molasses?
Nope, that doesn’t even come close to how slow Atletico Madrid (just like Barcelona when it is in winning positions) makes its substitutions.
Again, the worst part if the referee who doesn’t penalize teams that employ this time wasting maneuver that should be all too familiar by now.
Again, this year’s local derby at Bernabeu was ruined by such nonsense pieces of play. Real Madrid players could only stand as watch at Atletico Madrid ‘warriors’ crawled their way out of the ground.
5.Atletico Madrid players always play for their clearances to go out of play rather than to force a counter attack which is, for a team that is placed 2nd in La Liga, abominable.
Why defenders like Varane, Alba, Alves, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo and Carvajal get paid the big bucks?
It’s because they don’t just defend. They don’t just put the ball out of play whenever there is danger near their goal. They keep the ball rolling, keep the flow moving that helps the attackers to quickly get back into the swing of things without spending large amount of minutes doing nothing but walking past the halfway line.
Atletico Madrid defenders, and even midfielders, take every opportunity they can to put the ball out of play so that they can waste away some more precious minutes. Precious minutes for the opposing players who want to win and put on a show. Precious minutes of the fans who have paid good money to watch the match and precious minutes of bloggers who have to write about it every single time Atletico Madrid ruins a football match.
As with Pique, Mascherano and Puyol, Atletico Madrid defenders namely Godin, Juanfran, Jose and Luis never hesitated to whack the ball into row Z at even the slightest hint of an oncoming attacker.
That may be good enough for England’s Championship or League 1 game, but is absolutely deplorable for players playing in the world’s most entertaining league, La Liga.
Atletico Madrid, in its unending quest for major silverware has become what people already hate Barcelona for i.e diving cheats with an attitude of ‘win at all costs’.