Competition
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Atleti have earned the right to believe

Atlético responded to Barça’s 6-1 thrashing of Girona by tonking Sevilla 2-5, indicating they have no signs of giving up on this Liga title. They looked completely up for it. And that with the final result actually being somewhat disappointing, given they were 0-5 up. Some lapses at the end, which will have no doubt left Simeone seething, saw their lead cut to 2-5, which could have been 3-5 if it weren’t for a penalty against them that wasn’t given. Ignoring their loss of focus at the end, understandable given the huge lead, Atleti played superbly. Diego Costa and Griezmann connected well and the line of Saúl, Gabi, Thomas and Koke was stupendous. And Sevilla helped them too at times.

Griezmann and Costa

Can Atleti catch Barcelona?

Is there still enough time for them? Atlético, as I’ve already said, are at least earning the right to believe. With Diego Costa they’ve improved markedly, and Vitolo is still to get back into the groove. Griezmann is on fire and the group have got the toughness and self-belief that hasn’t been missing much since Cholo arrived. Now there are mid-week Liga games: Atlético - Leganés on Wednesday and Las Palmas-Barça on Thursday. If Atlético do their job, Barça will head to Gran Canaria just four points ahead. Not long ago the gap was 11. And then on Sunday it’s Barcelona-Atlético. After that game we’ll know how things lie.

Atleti’s problem: Messi

So yes, Atleti are challenging. But their problem is that the side they are chasing is equipped with a turbo, in the form of Messi. Did you see Saturday’s game? How good is he! Barça are a little stop-start, with good days and off days, they have doubts over the last man in the line-up (¿Semedo? ¿Aleix Vidal? ¿Coutinho? ¿Dembélé? ¿Paulinho? ¿André Gomes? ¿Denis Suárez?) and even over their basic shape, but when the ball reaches Messi none of that matters. HIs dribbling, his vision, his shooting… But Atlético have already nicked one Liga title off Messi’s Barça, and they did it in the Camp Nou. This year we’ve no idea how things will turn out. But Atlético aren’t giving up.

Atleti still believe