Atletico Madrid are arguably the form team in La Liga of the big three title contenders, and will feel that with Real Madrid and Barcelona exhibiting more obvious flaws than usual, they stand a good chance of at least taking things to the wire.
Los Colchoneros’ main reason for optimism is that in Antoine Griezmann, they arguably have the best player in La Liga. While Jude Bellingham leads the league in goal contributions (13), Griezmann is gradually creeping up on the Englishman, and increasingly gaining the attention for it. Atletico Madrid changed sponsor from Cryptocurrency platform Whalefin to Riyadh Air, and have been flying since, with Griezmann piloting the project for Diego Simeone. Those accustomed to betting will have noticed that Los Rojiblancos are much shorter odds than they were at the start of the season.
There is however a concern coming round the corner. Los Rojiblancos have been one of the most entertaining sides in Spain this year, scoring 30 goals in their 13 games. Atletico have the second-best average in the division, and are within one goal of joint-leaders Real Madrid and Girona. Part of the reason for that is that Alvaro Morata has been in sumptuous form so far, converting chances without thinking, and adding credence to the idea that he himself has put into the public domain, that he has matured.
Morata has five goals in four Champions League games, as well as seven in La Liga, but against Real Mallorca on Saturday night, he had one of his familiar games where he could not find the back of the net, despite getting into the right positions. It could just be one game, but Simeone will be keen to ensure that Morata does not fall into another period of uncertainty.
Particularly with the return of Memphis Depay, who was considered the starter at the beginning of the season, but has missed much of the campaign through injury. Now with the Dutchman back, he will want to apply pressure on Morata. Beforehand, Morata had his place assured, and did not have to worry about his starting spot, which might have contributed to his confidence in front of goal.
Meanwhile the Dutchman’s competition might spur Morata onto greater heights, but if it doesn’t, then Simeone will be wary of relying too heavily on Memphis too. He has barely put together three months of fitness since arriving in Spain, but one way or another, Griezmann will need a partner in crime to make an assault on the La Liga title.
Part of the reason for this is that Atletico have not looked their usual solid selves, but have been blowing teams away, conceding in 8 of their 13 games and often first. Simeone will be hoping that Samuel Lino, Marcos Llorente, Rodrigo Riquelme and Nahuel Molina can contribute, but he knows that with Griezmann often creating, a clinical forward will be required. Either that, or he must again look to shore up his defence.