Atletico Madrid are LaLiga’s must-see team this season. Can they defend their title for first time since 1951?

Atletico Madrid are promoted to LaLiga this season and are providing a lot of entertainment. Can you convert that to another championship title? Oscar J. Barroso / Europa Press via Getty Images

It was fantastic to hear Roy Keane recently telling Gary Neville his disgust over his coming to work as a manager on a Monday morning when he found a member of his coaching staff hadn’t bothered to watch real Madrid vs. Barcelona the night before. In retrospect, Keane says he should have fired the guy immediately because he doesn’t have enough taste, common sense, and soccer appetite to go on a special date with an unmistakable LaLiga product. I couldn’t agree more.

This weekend – since the beginning of this season – Atletico Madrid were the “must-see” event. Since the beginning of the long battle to defend the title, games have been with SpainThe champions gave us eight goals (some excellent), four red cards, 20 yellow cards, a fight in the tunnel, a penalty, one of the most ridiculous own goals you will ever see, a nasty feast for the eyes, planing, 37 shots on goal , the advent of a Tom Brady-esque passerby and a football brand that is finally combining the catch-me-if-you-can nature of the Premier League with the smarter, more technical quality of LaLiga.

One hundred and eighty minutes of football “Blink and you missed another explosive moment”. And that’s just the actual 2021-22 season – while preparing for the summer Atleti also started his own “Battle for Rotterdam”!

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Los Rojiblancos lost 2-1 to Feyenoord in De Kuip, which was originally a small mess between Yannick Carrasco and full-back Tyrell Malacia, ended with the Belgian swinging punches, Feyenoord midfielder Orkun Kokcu Bleeding from the cheek and neck, plus a violent brawl while Carrasco and Kokcu were (barely) held apart Marcos Llorente and Jan Oblak.

Carrasco refused to accept his red card until Diego Simeone sprinted onto the field to angrily insist that the lanky midfielder take his medicine. In the end, Simeone also lost his temper after Feyenoord’s “offside” winner in stoppage time and pushed his opponent Arne Slot.

“If no one else had been there, there might have been a big problem,” the Feyenoord coach grumbled afterwards. “I don’t want to go one-on-one against this guy!”

But Slot added something revealing that predicted the all-for-one-and-one-for-all stance that Atletico has put into all three competitive games so far. “Things got a little out of hand but I told my players afterwards that we could learn something from Atleti. They can’t bear to lose even in a pre-season training match if they think the winner was sidelined ! “

One way to understand Atleti’s uncompromising start to the season is to find out if you remember the “Shot Heard Round the World” when New York Giants outfielder Bobby Thomson hit a game-winning homerun in the ninth inning to win the National League pennant for the Giants, who lost 14 games earlier in the season. Alternatively, do you remember the first NBA All-Star basketball game in the Boston Garden or the premiere of the multiple Oscar winner “An American in Paris” with Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron?

I would say almost certainly not. That’s because all of these events relate to 1951, when Nat King Cole released “Unforgettable” and Bugs Bunny spokesperson Mel Blanc had a novelty hit as Tweety with “I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat.” That was also the last year Atletico Madrid won La Liga titles in a row – seven long decades ago.

Atletico even brought fire last season when they battled Feyenoord in a friendly after a controversial goal in added time. Herman Dingler / BSR Agency / Getty Images

Take a sliver of Atleti’s first three La Liga games, take the sample to a lab, and ask top scientists to analyze their results. The test results are labeled “Danger: Raw, Bare Ambition!” marked. Atleti shows a ruthless hunger for repetition.

When Atleti last conquered Spain in 2014, they fell terribly off the following season. Fewer goals, more goals conceded, a catastrophic 12 points less than the champions – and 16 points behind the 2015 champions, Barcelona.

There is a clear and iron determination not to repeat this embarrassment, and Celtic Vigo caught a touch of cordite in the first week. Atleti scored two of the best, most clinical and most exciting goals of Simeone’s 10-year reign – absolute screamers – and they won 2-1 in Vigo. But her fitness guru, Oscar “The Professor” Ortega, got the red card for complaining irritably, and another brawl broke out when he did Luis Suarez placeholder image was cut off in stoppage time.

Mario Hermoso proclaimed himself an “equalizer” and received the red card for fulfilling his vendetta with Celta captain Hugo Mallo. Speaking of equalizers, Atleti produced against one for your comedy scrapbook over the weekend Villarreal.

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Actually, the defending champion should have been ahead of the game with a basketball score. They had beaten up Spain’s Europa League winners: Simeone’s team hit 23 shots and started in 15 corners, while Villarreal had two shots that both went in! Anyway, after reaching stoppage time, Saul shot a real “Ave Maria” ball forward, and Aissa Mandi accepted his keeper, Geronimo RulliHe had stayed in his goal to collect his cushioned header only to see that Rulli had trotted to his left, thinking the ball was going straight to him. Instead, it hopped past Rulli and snuggled into the net.

Red faces for the men in yellow shirts, red and white joy for Atleti. Red mist also for Villarreal manager Unai Emery, who was on the verge of finishing a 15-game-less run when faced with Simeone as an opponent.

“I spent half an hour kicking the wall in the locker room, throwing water bottles and cursing everyone,” Emery admitted. And even that wasn’t until the tunnel brawl had calmed down.

Referee Soto Grado described it soberly in his report: “After the final whistle in the tunnel there was a close fight between all coaches and players from both teams. Unai Emery’s assistant Imanol Idiakez faced a home manager aggressively ”and had to be held back by his own colleagues [Atleti team delegate] Pedro Tomas Renones punched a Villarreal coach on the mouth. “

Don’t you love the smell of testosterone in the (very early) morning? It was really Monday morning – another Spanish quirk where games that start at 10 p.m. local time often end the next day after midnight due to the searing heat.



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All in all, Atleti has become a “must-have” ticket and the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium hopped on Sunday evening with 27,000 fans (due to pandemic restrictions) a passable imitation of a 60,000 crowd.

Atleti has produced some impressive football this season. Angel Correa can’t stop scoring goals or creating scoring opportunities, Thomas Lemar is a bottled lightning bolt in midfield, Cook‘s statistics are incomparable in the engine room. I could go on The focus is on the man in black, the Johnny Cash impersonator himself, Diego Simeone.

This time last year I tipped Atleti to win the title and they brought the bacon home. That was not a prognosis without fear, because in the last few years Simeone had let his focus wander from “victories at any price” to “for the Champions League money at any price”. He suffered from what was doomed to fail arsenal In the last few years of Arsene Wenger’s tenure: The idea that securing top four finishes and hauling around UEFA’s money are the way to satisfaction and that stable club finances and larger contracts are more important than competing at full throttle to get the title. But Simeone obviously loves the state of his squad: the talents, the mentality, their hunger.

Simeone is the man behind the uncompromising Atletico Madrid football. So far, so good this season. Jose Breton / Pics Action / NurPhoto via Getty Images

He’s been unusually chatty this summer about the absolute importance of adding something Rodrigo De Paul into his squad, and the Argentina international then made his home debut against Moose just to produce two runs that Tom Brady would have been proud of. It is clear that De Paul can open the defenses this season.

In addition, Simeone sees with clear, hungry glutton eyes what is going on in Barcelona and Madrid. Both rivals are insolvent and not entirely satisfied with their transfer market business. Both vulnerable.

Atleti’s Champions League group is also amazing: the four teams are combined (Liverpool, Postage, AC Milan and Los Rojiblancos) have made 22 appearances in the final of this competition alone. Atleti are the only ones who didn’t win it. Yet.

If they go through so much, who knows? But a national victory and a first title double since Harry Truman (USA), Sir Winston Churchill (UK), Joseph Stalin (USSR) and General Franco (Spain) were in power at the same time is in sight.

Expect a slew of all-or-nothing football nights with no inhibitions from Atleti all season long.

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