Atletico Madrid's Lack of Squad Strength Is Displayed in Real Defeat

Paul Wilkes@@paulwilkesfootyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2014

Atletico's coach Diego Pablo Simeone from Argentina waits for the start of a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Almeria and Atletico de Madrid at the Juegos Mediterraneos stadium in Almeria, Spain Saturday Feb. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Daniel Tejedor)
Daniel Tejedor/Associated Press

Trying to overcome a three-goal deficit was never going to be easy for Atletico Madrid, especially when you consider their opponents were unbeaten in the last 23 games.

The mighty Real Madrid has one of the best squads in world football, with multimillion pound replacements for their multimillion pound stars, while Atleti has a number of loan signings and free transfers offering their services in reserve.

With the Champions League returning next week and Diego Simeone prioritising their title pursuit, Atletico understandably fielded an under-strength team. Six changes were made to the team that lost to Almeria at the weekend:

Atletico used Daniel Aranzubia in goal, after he was sent off against Almeria and conceded a penalty, Emiliano Insua, who was destroyed by the pace of Jese in the first leg, centre-back Toby Alderweireld (reportedly signed by Manchester City according to AS because Atleti couldn't fund the deal, via Inside Spanish Football), midfielder Mario Suarez, free transfer Cristian Rodriguez and loan signing Jose Sosa, via transfermarkt.

Carlo Ancelotti also made six changes, bringing in World Cup winning captain Iker Casillas, the highly-rated Raphael Varane making his first appearance since injury, former Liverpool players Xabi Alonso and Alvaro Arbeloa, £30 million purchase Isco and current Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo to the side that beat Villarreal at the weekend.

That's not rotation, that's just unfair. Atletico Madrid has a very good first eleven that can compete with any team in Europe. They have some top class players that will be highly sought after in the summer.

They just don't have the squad to compete on numerous fronts. "I'm just being realistic," said Simeone, as he admits his side couldn't beat Barcelona and Real Madrid to the La Liga championship, via ESPN.

"I think sometimes everyone is attracted to the idea that Atletico will continue to compete and that, the day we fall away and find ourselves in third, it would be considered a failure despite being an important step forwards for the club.

"Dreaming is for the fans. We have to live in reality, which is to say working training and working hard, preparing for games and not creating false expectations," concludes Simeone.

The Argentine is fully aware of the financial constraints placed on him by the club. He can't complain, he knew the situation when he arrived.

Injuries to Thibaut Courtois, Filipe Luis and David Villa are felt much more than those at the other two. The suspension of Diego Costa for the Madrid derby was catastrophic.

Young right-back Javier Manquillo looks to have a promising future, though he faced a near impossible task when marking Ronaldo.

He clumsily gave away the penalty by tripping over the Portuguese forward, which led to the first goal. Although, in fairness, he grew into the match and drew yellow cards from both Ronaldo and Arbeloa.

His attacking instinct was one of the rare highlights for Atletico on a difficult evening.

On the other side, Insua's late challenge on Gareth Bale saw the referee point to the spot once more, and Ronaldo grabbed his second of the game.

There are some players that aren't first pick, but can offer something to the team, like Raul Garcia.

Unfortunately, the attacking midfielder had to play as a striker and spent most of his time trying to get into a fight with Xabi Alonso.

There are similarities between the Liverpool team of 2008/09 that had Rafa Benitez at the helm and this Atletico side, per Wikipedia.

Both display a solid team, with huge debts denying them the chance to build anything substantial.


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