Diego Simeone – The manager who has managed to produce the maximum of results under the minimalist availability of resources is again looking strong in presenting ‘The Mattress Makers’, one of the serious title contenders in Spain. The Argentine has been able to transform the footballing scenario in the Spanish capital. Few years back the Madrid derby used to be more or less a one-sided affair. However, within the past 3 years, the Los Rojiblancos seem finally to have a hold over their neighbours as the men in red and white, given their passion and aggressive intensity seem to have a psychological advantage over the Galácticos with majority of the results ending in favour of Atleti fans.
Now, this group of hardworking players have reached the top of the Spanish League table albeit Barca having played a game less. It is still a remarkable feat for Diego Simeone as with his team coming in form at the appropriate moment of the season, the Los Colchoneros are now being considered as a serious title threats to the Catalans, more so than their arch-rivals – Real Madrid.
In addition, the tireless work of the Argentine manager, with the dedication and passion of his players, this team is ready to snatch away the Spanish League title given any mistake or complacency by the reigning titles holder, FC Barcelona.
Last season, Barcelona reached almost at the world’s end, capturing five of the possible six trophies they played for and the biggest ingredient for their memorable success was the form of their holy triumvirate, Messi, Suarez and Neymar. The trio were in blistering form last season, scoring more goals than any other team in the top five leagues in Europe. Their inform effect is so dominating that it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Blaugranas manage to become the only team to have successfully defended the Champions League trophy in the sport’s history, or even secure a consecutive treble.
Nevertheless, given the current league tables, the treble winners find themselves trailing behind Atlético Madrid having played a game less – The reason for this, players suffering from fatigue in the Camp Nou outfit and a rejuvenated Atleti squad determined to turn around the last year’s trophy-less season.
Barça has just recovered from the FIFA transfer ban imposed on them due to the infringement of rules related to the registration of under aged players. Due to this, the Catalan’s options on the bench significantly were reduced, as Luis Enrique had to manage within the 12-13 first team players that could actually play an influencing role in the big games. With this limitation, the players got less rest, and as a result, injuries started occurring in the team, which saw Lionel Messi being ruled out for a period of around 2 months. Andres Iniesta, Ivan Rakitic, Neymar Jr and Daniel Alves shared some considerable time on the sidelines. These health issues made their presence felt on the score-line as mixed with some hard luck, the Catalans now see themselves drawing their past 3 away encounters, taking only 6 points from a possible 12.
In addition, these limitations of the Blaugranas lead to the advantage of their rivals notably Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid. The Royal Whites failed to grab up the opportunity as ironically Real Madrid also dropped points every time Barca dropped points. However, the other team from the Madrid capital did capitalize this opportunity as with a tactically well-planned strategy, Diego Simeone continues to take forward his players slowly but steadily.
The purchase of Antoine Griezmann is turning out to be one of the best businesses for the Red and Whites as the dynamic French international has been the focus point of the attack for his team. Well supported by the likes of capable players like Luciano Vietto, Jackson Martinez and the veteran Fernando Torres, Simeone has built an attacking unit that is capable of challenging the top silverware from Spain and Europe.
In addition, having a well-organized and disciplined defence continues to be one of their USP’s as this was one of the major reasons why Simeone’s men have outplayed their Royal neighbours in the recent games with Cristiano Ronaldo being almost completely nullified in those matches.
Their style is molding to a more ball controlling approach as their possession percent has increased from 48.2% in 2012-13 to 50.3% in 2015-16 with the likes of Koke and Gabi now playing more controlling football, dictating the game thus adapting to a slightly new, different version of themselves.
Adding to it, having a great squad depth has really helped his players as given the long duration of the season; the players need to be rotated in the first half of the season so they can stay fresh for the deciding second half. Until date, Barcelona could not avail this opportunity. However, with transfer ban removed, Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal now registered, Luis Enrique will surely be looking forward to giving rest to some of the key members of the squad, as efficient man management of the players was one of the most important reasons for him winning the treble in his debut season. Again, this has been one of the major reasons for Simeone’s men reaching the top of the table even though it may be for a temporary period.
After winning the La Liga title in 2013-14 and breaking the duopoly of Barcelona and Madrid, Atletico suffered a trophy-less season last year with their rival FCB playing some astonishingly beautiful football to secure a memorable feat of 5 trophies in the calendar year 2015.Nevertheless,if any complacency arises in the Camp Nou dugout, Luis Enrique would be well aware that a team from the Spanish Capital is all set to snatch away and run with the opportunity, with that team not being Real Madrid.!