After the first match in the second half of LaLIga 2020/21 Atlético Madrid have 47 points, and two games in hand. That allows them to think about 100 points by the end of the championship. It’s true they can’t be taken as won, but it’s also not a completely crazy idea, given they’ve won 15 out of 18. The league record in Spain of 100 points is shared between Guardiola’s Barcelona and Mourinho’s Madrid, who could count on Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo respectively, and who could be said to have added 15 points each with their goals. Atlético don’t have anyone like that, and yet they’re racking up points at a rate that puts them on course for that record. Impressive.
Atleti are so much more dangerous up front
They’ve maintained their solidity at the back - Simeone’s trademark - but have improved a heap up front. Their bold, and expensive, signing in attack was João Félix, but he’s still not completely settled, meaning the main players involved in this transformation into a far more dangerous side have been Luis Suárez and Llorente, two cast-offs from Barça and Madrid, who arrived at Atlético for a reasonable price, particularly in the case of the Uruguayan. Simeone has set the team up to “feed him further up the pitch” as he himself explained. And the coach has discovered a new role for Llorente, taking him out of the midfield, where his addiction to exercise suffered, and giving wings to his speed along with his attacking and goal-scoring awareness.
Two rejects from Real Madrid and Barcelona
A wise friend of mine, an Atleti fan, said to me on Sunday: “They gave us these two because they don’t take us into account.” That made me think that that’s probably how it is. Madrid and Barça only think about each other, they don’t think Atleti are playing in their world, and they won’t learn, even after Atleti took a league off them (won with Villa, a Barça reject, by the way) and came close against Madrid in two Champions League finals. Now, with Luis Suárez and Llorente, they are seven and 10 points ahead of the pair, respectively, and with a game extra in hand over them. Griezmann isn’t eating at same table as Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi, but Atleti sure are dining at the same table as Real Madrid and Barcelona.