This week Atlético Madrid produced a stunning two legged victory over arguably the best team in the world, Barcelona. They’ve now booked their place in the Champions League semi finals and will face Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich.
Diego Simeone’s men defied all odds when they reached the Champions League Final in 2014. After Diego Godin’s opener they were just moments away from a famous victory. Only for Sergio Ramos to pop up in the dying seconds to take it to extra time before going on to complete a 4-1 loss in Lisbon against city rivals Real. It was Real Madrid who sent Atlético out again the following year, this time at the quarter final stage in a 1-0 aggregate scoreline.
After winning the Europa League in 2012 and then coming so close to the Champions League crown, now is the time for Simeone and Atlético to take the step up and win European footballs top competition.
After a difficult first leg at the Camp Nou, in which Atlético were well on top after an away goal from Fernando Torres, before the Spanish forward was then stupidly sent off for a second bookable offence. Luis Suarez went on to make the Barcelona pressure count and score two goals sinking Atlético Madrid into a 2-1 deficit entering the second leg at the Vicente Calderon.
Having lost all of their last seven outings against Luis Enrique’s Barcelona, Atlético were well and truly up against it, not to mention the fire power of MSN (Messi, Suarez and Neymar) and having a rejuvenated Fernando Torres suspended.
It was down to Atlético’s main man this season, Antoine Griezmann to step up again. With over 25 goals already this campaign the Frenchman did just that, scoring a brilliant header in the first half, followed by a calm penalty in the final few minutes of the game. The Rojiblancos were able to shut out Messi, Suarez and Neymar with no clear cut opportunities at all. This was heavily down to the work rate of club captain Gabi and central midfield partner Fernandez acting as cover in front of the back four they were able to cut the supply given by Iniesta, Busquets and Rakitic.
Barcelona may argue they should have had a penalty in the final few minutes when the ball was struck on to the arm of Gabi. Should they have scored there and the tie would’ve been sent into extra time. Equally Atlético will argue Iniesta, who’s attempted cross hit the arm of Gabi, shouldn’t have been on the pitch at that point as it was his handball as last man, that allowed Griezmann to score from the spot.
Atlético have the ability to shut out the opposition, bringing the wide men of Koke and Carrasco in when defending to create very little space for the attacking team and then hit them on the break so clinically. The width provided by their outstanding full backs, Felipe Luis and Juanfran gives them an outlet when moving forward and with Greizmann on this sort of form the 7/2 odds placed on them to win the trophy, as I believe they will, are looking like a great bet.
Next up is Bayern Munich. With the first leg at the Vicente Calderon, Diego Simeone’s men will surely set up just how they did against Barcelona. They don’t need huge amounts of possession. They can afford to let Bayern have the ball, as shown in Benfica, where they found it difficult to create clear cut chances. Atlético are by far the hardest team left in this competition to beat, their commitment is second to none and I can’t see Pep Guardiola’s side playing their way through this team. At 13/8 Atlético to qualify for the final is a steal.
This is Atlético’s year, after the disappointment of 2014 they have come back stronger and look more likely then ever before, to be crowned European Champions.