Atletico Madrid have taken Spanish football by storm. The dominant performances of Diego Simeone's side have yielded several trophies already, and there appears to be no sign of that stopping anytime soon.
La Liga was once a two-horse race, but things have changed at the top of the table. Only goal difference separates Atletico Madrid from the top spot in the La Liga table, and there is every reason to believe that this team could lift the domestic trophy at the end of the season.
In this article, we will take a look at the reasons why Atletico Madrid could actually win La Liga and why their chances are very realistic. Enjoy.
All statistics are courtesy of WhoScored.com.
Despite Atletico Madrid having broken up the big two in Spain, the rest of the clubs do not seem to have gotten the message.
When Barcelona or Real Madrid face off with Spanish opponents, they will either be greeted by extremely stiff competition or complete apathy. For the most part, opponents tend to step up their game when facing the big two, making every game somewhat dangerous.
That isn't the case for Atletico Madrid.
The rest of the clubs in Spain still do not seem to view Los Colchoneros as giants, and thus, they do not tend to step up their game to the same level as when they face one of the big two. This means that Atletico Madrid play slightly easier matches for the most part.
At the same time, Atletico Madrid have an even bigger weapon on their side. No one expects them to win.
Week in and week out, Barcelona and Real Madrid are analyzed and scrutinized. Any mistake or dropped point will be magnified, while Atletico Madrid are not held to the same standard.
With the big two having a certain level of expectation to live up to, Atletico Madrid are enjoying their time of not having that same burden put on their shoulders. They could realistically win La Liga because no one expects them to, and that takes out a great deal of pressure.
The pressure will soon catch up to Atletico Madrid as it does with any great team, but for now, they can take advantage of not having those high expectations at this point.
When comparing Barcelona to Real Madrid, it is very easy to mention all of the world-class stars and incredible styles of play. But we must remember that Atletico Madrid have just as much to offer.
Los Colchoneros have taken Barcelona to the wire in recent meetings and have also beaten Real Madrid in their last few matches. The results aren't a fluke: There is a very good reason to explain their success.
To begin, Atletico boast one of the best strikers in the world in Diego Costa, who has already found the back of the net 19 times this season. Costa may very well be the most clinical finisher in all of Spain at the moment and gives Atletico a lot going forward.
Gabi and Tiago remain one of the best midfield pairings in all of football, and their influence cannot be overlooked. Koke has also become a phenomenal talent over the past few months and still has a lot of room for improvement as well.
However, Atletico Madrid's most prized asset is their defensive unit.
The Spanish club boasts what is arguably the best defense on the planet at the moment. Juanfran and Filipe Luis form an incredible team of fullbacks while Diego Godin and Miranda are a complete wall in the center of defense.
Lastly, keeper Thibaut Courtois has quickly become one of the best around at his position and continues to gain recognition.
It is quite easy to see that Atletico Madrid does not merely have a good squad. This team is full of stars and definitely have enough quality to lift the La Liga trophy.
Every great, successful team has had depth. Barcelona and Real Madrid often have a bench full of world beaters, meaning Atletico Madrid will need to be deep as well if they want to win the La Liga title.
Everyone's definition of depth is a bit different—allow me to clarify.
For many, the word depth refers to how good the players are that are not regular starters. For this discussion though, we are using the word depth to refer to how close in quality the entire squad is to one another.
By this definition, there are very few squads in the world that are as deep as Atletico Madrid.
For instance, Barcelona boast a roster full of stars. However, the team will not be nearly as effective with Sergi Roberto in the middle of the pitch in place of Xavi or Iniesta, nor will the attack be as dangerous with Lionel Messi or Neymar out of the squad. The reserves may be terrific players, but the play suffers without regular starters.
However, when someone is not in the lineup for Atletico Madrid, the player that takes his place is normally very similar in quality and does not cause the dynamic to suffer.
Role players such as Raul Garcia, Cristian Rodriguez and Oliver Torres may not be first-choice starters, but the team barely misses a beat when they stand in for others in the lineup.
Depth has little to do with how good a team's bench is, rather, it is all about how balanced a squad is as a whole. Based on this, Atletico Madrid are as deep as they come and are in it for the long haul.
While Atletico Madrid are entering a golden age of success, it seems as though both Barcelona and Real Madrid are starting to slip up more than usual. This cannot be overlooked.
The big two, though still immensely powerful, do not seem to be quite at the same level as they were a few years ago. Poor performances are more common than they used to be, and at times, Barcelona and Real Madrid have even looked human.
Yet, while they both continue to struggle with defensive problems and injuries, Atletico Madrid look to be getting stronger by the week. The gap is closing quickly.
Either Barcelona or Real Madrid could still win La Liga, but both have major issues that must be addressed.
Barcelona's defense is still very problematic, while injuries to Lionel Messi and others have made things difficult lately. Real Madrid are also struggling defensively, but at the same time, they have yet to really find their rhythm this season under a new manager.
All the while, Atletico Madrid continue to steamroll opponents, showing no signs of weakness.
When it all comes down to it, Diego Simeone is the reason for the success of Atletico Madrid. The Argentinian coach knows how to inspire his players, and his expert tactics continue to yield incredible results.
El Cholo is certainly one of the best managers in the game and may even be the best by the end of the season. Atletico's success would not have come without him, and if they do end up winning La Liga, he will be the reason.
When Simeone took over as manager, the club was struggling. In just a few years, he has turned things around and brought a winning attitude to a club that needed to return to their roots.
Every great team needs a great leader, and while Diego Costa, Gabi and Thibaut Courtois are leaders on the pitch, Simeone is the genius and mastermind behind the whole operation.
Predicting which club will win La Liga this season is nearly impossible, but for the first time in many years, we can now say with confidence that someone besides the big two could realistically win.
Atletico Madrid are not an outside shot; they are serious contenders.
Can Atletico Madrid win La Liga this season? If they do win, what will be the reasons for their success? Leave your thoughts and comments below!