Atletico Madrid Must Maintain Form from Deportivo Win and Hope Barcelona Crash

Rik SharmaFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2016

MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 12:  Antoine Greizmann of Club Atletico de Madrid shoots past Carlos Borges of RC Deportivo la Coruna to score Atletico 2nd goal during the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and RC Deportivo La Coruna at Vicente Calderon Stadium on March 12, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Atletico Madrid have hit a sweet spot, it seems. Perhaps a little too late, but they've hit it nevertheless.

It would have been helpful for Diego Simone if his side had been able to find the net in the two games that finished 0-0 in February, against Villarreal and PSV in La Liga and the Champions League, respectively.

The European situation is still in their hands, with the second leg of that last-16 tie at the Vicente Calderon in the week ahead.

Their position in La Liga, however, will depend on teams other than themselves.

Atletico crushed Deportivo de la Coruna 3-0 at the Vicente Calderon on Saturday night, making it three games in a row they have scored three goals in, taking all three points to cut Barcelona's lead at the top of La Liga to eight.

With nine games left in the league season, they would need a serious crash from Barcelona to be in with a chance of lifting the title.

Although not completely impossible, it doesn't seem likely. The Catalan giants are coming into some fine form of their own, with Luis Enrique able to rest two of the most important players in Luis Suarez and Sergio Busquets, and still smash Getafe 6-0 earlier in the day.

However, as Simeone said before the Deportivo game, Atletico must keep on going in the same vein.

"You know us. You know that further than the situation we are in or the lack of time there is, we will work with the same hope, enthusiasm and commitment," explained the Argentine coach, per Sport. And his words are still true.

MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 12:  Manager Diego Simeone of Club Atletico de Madrid takes his place on the players bench ahead of the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and RC Deportivo La Coruna  at Vicente Calderon Stadium on March 12, 2016 in Madrid
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Playing well in the league should lead to better performances in Europe, too.

Antoine Griezmann has rediscovered his goalscoring touch, Diego Godin is still in with a strong shout for being the best centre-back in the world, Angel Correa looks increasingly dangerous and Saul Niguez is becoming a midfield king.

But just looking at La Liga, every single remaining league fixture for Atletico Madrid is winnable, with the hardest probably being the trip to Bilbao to face Athletic Club on April 24.

By contrast, Barcelona have a couple of games in which they could slip up. They must travel to Villarreal, who are flying high in the table, while Real Madrid come to visit on April 2.

Although Los Blancos are in a lowly state, Clasicos can be unpredictable and, should Barcelona drop points in these games, it could raise the tension in La Liga.

Atletico Madrid's French forward Antoine Griezmann (R) and teammates celebrate after scoring  during the Spanish league football match Club Atletico de Madrid vs RC Deportivo La Coruna at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid on March 12, 2016. / AFP / J

Then, based on how the teams fare in Europe, it could end up that Luis Enrique's men have tougher games than Atletico and have to expend more energy in them, leaving them drained at the weekend.

Not hugely likely, and of course it could go the other way, but then it wasn’t likely that Atletico could upset the odds in 2013-14 and win the title.

Part of what being Atletico entails is hope. Another part is effort. Simeone and his men have the former and it spurs them on to give the latter in spades.

Francisco Seco/Associated Press

Deportivo were crushed coolly and calmly by Atletico, who failed to give the visitors the chance to strike up any hope of their own.

Saul’s opening goal, a brutal bullet header, was as emphatic as Griezmann’s placed second was precise. Correa’s third drew on both power and accuracy, ending the game and giving his team momentum going into the PSV clash.

In a statement that would please Simeone, Atletico must concentrate on themselves first, keeping up this form and winning the rest of their league games. Beyond that, if Barcelona slip, the Rojiblancos will be there waiting hungrily underneath.