We are already 12 matches into the La Liga season and it is none other than Barcelona who is sitting at the top of the table. The Catalans currently hold a six-point lead over rival Real Madrid, but that might not be the team to worry about.
Atletico Madrid remains second in the table so far, trailing Barcelona by a mere point. So could it be that Atletico Madrid is the club Barcelona should be most concerned about?
Let’s find out.
La Liga is always a very important competition. Real Madrid may know this better than anyone else, but there is a bigger prize this year. La Decima is within their reach.
However, while Real Madrid seems to be focused on multiple competitions, Atletico has done a fantastic job at giving the proper attention to the domestic campaign.
Diego Simeone and company may be fully aware that winning the Champions League may be a bit out of reach at the current moment. But La Liga may not be.
In fact, if there is a competition that Atletico could win this season, it would be the Spanish domestic trophy.
Though both Madrid-based clubs are competing in the Champions League, Atletico is the one who are guaranteeing results in La Liga thus far. Real Madrid may be stretched too thin by their demands and it could cost them in the long run.
Stars among stars
When looking at the competition on paper, it seems as though Barcelona’s only real challenge to the La Liga throne is Real Madrid. With Los Blancos boasting the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo they are a serious threat to anyone vying for silverware.
Not surprisingly though, Atletico Madrid is also putting up massive numbers this year.
Diego Costa is currently level with Ronaldo for the most goals scored this season with 13, while Koke is level with Neymar for most assists thus far with seven. Take into account that Atletico may very well be the best defensive unit in Europe and they quickly become a serious threat.
It may look as though Real Madrid are the biggest threat due to the stars in their squad, but Atletico Madrid has just as many standout players that are dominating La Liga.
Atletico Madrid are a very deep squad and have just as much firepower as anyone else in Spain.
Atletico Madrid has already proved that they can stand up to Barcelona. The Catalans may have won the Spanish Super Cup to begin the season, but they were never able to take command against Atletico.
At the same time, Simeone not only defeated Real Madrid to lift the Copa del Rey last year, his side has also beaten their fellow Madrid rivals this season as well.
When it comes to La Liga, it is all about matchups. Every time Barcelona or Real Madrid faces an opponent, the competition level is raised and they are given a real test. But that isn’t the case yet for Atletico.
When Atletico comes to town teams still look to knock off the thriving club, but they don’t seem to be as urgent as they are against Barcelona and Real Madrid.
It may even be safe to say that Atletico will play an easier La Liga campaign this season than Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Is Atletico the bigger threat?
This is a question that is very difficult to answer. At any moment a club could fall or rise, but based off of what we have seen this season, it is safe to say that Atletico Madrid are right now the biggest threat to Barcelona in La Liga.
Los Colchoneros can smell blood in the water. The days of the Spanish duopoly are coming to an end, and Atletico Madrid will be the club to usher in the new era of La Liga.
Atletico have almost matched Barcelona game for game and show no signs of stopping. Diego Simeone has his players firing on all cylinders while Real Madrid is still adapting to Carlo Ancelotti’s changes.
The fact of the matter is that Real Madrid cannot hope to win the Champions League while also competing for the La Liga trophy in a competition that is demanding record points to be crowned champions.
Los Blancos will have to give more attention to one competition. On the other hand, Atletico Madrid is poised to continue their dominance in Spain.
There really is no telling how the table will look when the season ends, but for now it is safe to assume that Atletico will be the ones giving Barcelona the biggest battle for the trophy.
*Note all statistics are courtesy of WhoScored.com.
Who is the biggest threat to Barcelona? Could Atletico Madrid actually win La Liga this season? Leave your thoughts and comments below!
Tre' Atkinson. Follow me on Twitter for more discussions on La Liga!