On Sunday morning Spanish sports daily AS went with the headline, ‘Millions 0, Football 1’. It was an apt description of what was witnessed the evening before at the Santiago Bernabeu. Real Madrid, for all the millions they had spent over the summer on star players, showed that they remain a side full of champions but hardly a champion side. Atletico Madird, on the other hand, shone and showed that they are indeed a champion side as they went on to defeat their locals rivals on their home turf for the second consecutive time in four months.
It was an historic win too for Aleti. It was their first La Liga win against Real Madrid after 23 failed attempts. The win also kept their 100 per cent start to the season intact. It is now seven wins from seven for Diego Simeone’s men – the club’s best ever start to a campaign. Asked whether his team can be considered title contenders, the Argentine boss responded: “Looking at the table you would say yes, [but] the economic power of Barcelona and Real Madrid is important”. Certainly, Barcelona and Real Madrid’s financial strength has often proved the difference in recent times, but, it made little difference on Saturday night.
Atletico dominated their more illustrious rivals in every facet of the game. Defensively, the visitors were typically watertight. Space was at a premium for Carlo Ancelotti’s side and they struggled to create chances as a result. Instead, they were reduced to punts from distance. At the other end of the field, they were no better. Every time Atleti broke forward, they looked as though they would score. On another night, the margin would have been greater. Diego Costa, whose 11th minute strike proved the difference, ran the entire Real Madrid back four ragged. They looked at a loss as to how to contain the Brazilian – possibly soon to be Spain international – so it came as no surprise that all of them ended the game with a yellow card. Sergio Ramos could consider himself lucky not to have picked up two.
If Atletico continue to play like this week in week out, then there is no reason to suggest they cannot be considered title contenders. As for Real Madrid, talk of a crisis has already started. On Monday morning AS dedicated its front page to attacking Ancelotti. It read, ‘Ancelotti has made a mess’ and claimed that he has already forgotten on his promise to ‘play spectacular football’. The knives are already out in the capital.
Barcelona, meanwhile, have a ‘mini-crisis’ of their following their trip to Almeria. Yes they did win and yes Lionel Messi scored, but he went off injured on the half-hour mark. The Argentine is now expected to be sidelined for two to three weeks. On the positive side however, Tata Martino still has Neymar, Cesc Fabregas, Pedro, Alexis Sanchez and Andres Iniesta to call upon so it really is not much of a ‘crisis’ at all.
The real crisis is in Madrid, not in Chamartin but rather in Vallecas. Rayo Vallecano lost their sixth match of the season away to Valencia. They now sit rock bottom of La Liga and though it may be early days, they are looking every bit a side on their way down.