From the outside everything about Spanish football is dominated by Barcelona and Real Madrid. This fact is backed up by the Championship records over the years, but followers of the game in Spain are only too well aware of the other quality teams in the league.
It is almost ten years since Valencia dared to disrupt the duopoly by winning the League Championship and have since figured consistently in the Champions League. Last season Athletic Bilbao caught everyone’s imagination with a fantastic Europa League campaign and this year another has truly emerged. With 13 games remaining Atletico Madrid, led by Argentine Diego Simeone, occupy second place.
Following on from their European success last season when Simeone took charge midway through he showed indications that he was capable of transforming the side. With a squad featuring Thibaut Courtois, Radamel Falcao and Arda Turan, to name but a few, it was felt the side could improve under the Argentine’s influence. In Falcao, the manager had a proven world class goal scorer and his aim was to provide him with enough ammunition whilst also tightening up the defence.
The proof of Simeone’s management expertise can be seen in Falcao’s return so far this season. The Colombian has currently scored 26 goals in 27 games and has confirmed his status as the best all round striker in the world. What has been interesting though is that Falcao has had many of his other duties and responsibilities rescinded; he no longer needs to press as frequently as he did initially last season. Simeone has clearly identified that his striker needs to be free to utilise his wonderful attacking prowess.
At the other end of the pitch the Argentine has used all his defensive know how to make Atletico the meanest defensive unit in the league. The future of Thibaut Courtois will be something very high on Simeone’s list of business this summer as the Belgian keeper has once again been in supreme form. With Godin and Miranda marshalling the centre of defence, they have been excellent as a side who defend as a unit.
Another important factor in Simeone’s successes so far this season has been their impeccable home record. Thus far they have won all 13 of their games at the Vicente Calderon and have conceded a miserly six goals. It is a record that every club would envy having and is always a solid platform in which to launch your season. Making your home ground a fortress has always been a vital component in all successful sides throughout the years and enhances the player’s confidence as a direct result.
There has been sufficient speculation in Spain to suggest it could prove to be tricky to retain Simeone’s services this summer after impressing so much thus far. However, having represented the club during his playing days too there is clearly an affiliation with the club that might prove hard to break.
There is no doubt that the Argentine has ambitions of challenging for major honours and retaining both himself and Falcao would represent a huge statement of intent for Atletico.
Written by Andy Hunter
Follow Andy on Twitter @hunter67980
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