Atletico Madrid The last time they achieved this, they won the double
Almost 25 years on from their double-winning season, Atletico Madrid are once again proclaimed winter champions.
Finishing top at the halfway stage of the season brings with it no more than honour. The last time they achieved this was in 1996 – that double-winning season.
It is no coincidence that Atletico are where they are, and several factors have contributed to this.
The defensive strength has been one of the team’s hallmarks since the arrival of Diego Simeone. At Atletico, the centre forward is the first defender. They gift opponents very few chances. This season they have conceded just six goals in 16 league games, the lowest figure in the big five leagues.
There are hierarchal players here, but none are absolutely crucial to their success. They win games without Joao Felix, Luis Suarez, Saul Niguez and Koke. Their strong point is the team itself.
Sometimes it is very difficult to guess the position that certain players will occupy on the pitch. Marcos Llorente is a perfect example of that. Either a 4-4-2 or 3-4-2-1 seems to be the preferred option for Simeone, but we have seen others too. The latter has become the most familiar of late.
Sevilla midfielder Fernando Reges complained that his team had numerous chances to score against Atletico on Tuesday night but were unable to find a breakthrough. Atletico, on the other hand, had two real chances and scored both of them. They have needed just 68 shots on goal to score 31 league goals this season, making them the most effective team in LaLiga Santander.
There are few new faces at Atletico this season, but one of which, Luis Suarez, has been tremendously profitable. The Uruguayan has scored nine goals so far, many of which have been key. Against Alaves, Getafe, Elche and Celta Vigo, his goals were pivotal.
Simeone has also managed to get the best out of players who previously had not lived up to expectations at Atletico such as Thomas Lemar, Mario Hermoso and Yannick Carrasco.
Playing without fans has seemingly not been a problem for Atletico. In the nine games they have played at home this campaign, they have won eight and drawn one, which came against Villarreal. In fact, they have not lost in the league at home since Barcelona beat them all the way back in December 2019.
It is often said that when things go well for a team, there is a good atmosphere among the players in the dressing room. That certainly seems to be the case at Atletico.