Reasons Why Atletico Madrid Can Still Win La Liga
Across Europe's top five leagues, only three teams average more points per game than Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid.
One is Bayern Munich (2.5 per game), another is Manchester United (2.43) and, unfortunately for Los Rojiblancos, the other is Barcelona (2.75).
The side from the Spanish capital, though—against many pundit's preseason thoughts—have registered a more-than-encouraging 2.35 points per game. That's better than Juventus (2.28), Manchester City (2.21), PSG (2.0) and of course their neighbours Real Madrid (2.0).
This weekend, Atletico equalled a long-standing club record of 12 consecutive home wins—set by Ricardo Zamora's team in 1940—and also have plenty of other reasons to believe that they could produce one of the shocks of the new millennium by winning La Liga.
Barcelona Are Only Human
Real Sociedad pounced in injury time to inflict a first defeat of the season on the previously unbeatable Barcelona on Saturday night.
Being so far clear, questions are rightly asked whether it is easy for Tito Vilanova's side to maintain motivation and performance levels week in, week out, particularly as it's often their opponent's "cup final."
However, one or two more losses and the notoriously menacing Madrid press will be keen to question Vilanova's mettle in his debut managerial season.
Atletico Are Formidable at Home
October 28th, 2012. That was the last time Atletico de Madrid conceded a goal at their Vicente Calderon Stadium. Osasuna was the team to breach their back-line.
Their clean sheet in Sunday's 2-0 win over Levante was their 10th consecutive clean sheet at home in competitive matches since they beat the Pamplona-based side 3-1 in October.
Large credit is due to Simeone and—when possible—a consistent back four, although last night's win provided further evidence of the depth and youth now available as Javier Manquillo, 18, brilliantly deputised for Juanfran.
It was also their 12th consecutive win at what is becoming known as their "fortress," and if they continue to stretch that run then Barcelona will certainly begin to take them more seriously as each week passes.
The Fixture List Favors Them
Atletico have lost three matches this season, all away, and in all cases they were fairly beaten.
First by Valencia, then Real Madrid and most recently Barcelona. The only positive now about those three defeats is that they all came away from the Vicente Calderon, meaning they welcome all three to their "casa" in the second half of the season.
They don't meet Real Madrid until Week 33 nor Barca till Week 35, by which time they could—should they continue their form—still be within touching distance of the Catalans, who also have to go to the Bernabeu at the beginning of March.
With their depth being demonstrated by Adrian Lopez's recent return to goal-scoring form, El Cholo's side will hope to be right in contention come those important matches in April and May.
Next 6 Games Will Be Key
Next up is a trip to Athletic Bilbao, a club they had the monopoly over in 2012—although a trip to San Mames is never to be taken for granted.
Home games against Real Betis and Espanyol then sandwich away trips to Rayo Vallecano and Real Valladolid, all games El Cholo will be targeting three points in, before an interesting trip to take on Malaga at La Rosaleda.
As things stand, Atletico will enter all of those games as favourites, barring possibly Malaga, and if they emerge with near maximum points, the belief in the squad should be sky high for a real tilt at the title.