Atletico Madrid's La Liga Dominance & Why They Are a Force in Europe

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La Liga Winner Odds

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As the Big Two crumble, Atletico get stronger

Maybe to the surprise of many, Atletico Madrid have stormed La Liga and find themselves comfortably at the summit of Spain’s top tier. Los Rojiblancos currently find themselves three points clear of their city rivals Real Madrid, with a game in hand on Zinedine Zidane’s side and they are also eight clear of Barcelona.

Many will look at the shortcomings of the usual big two from Spain as a reason for Atletico’s success thus far, but that’s extremely unfair, with Diego Simeone’s side thoroughly deserving their place at the top after a magnificent campaign that’s seen them lose just two of their 23 games. With such an sensational display in the league so far, mixed with the issues faced by both Real Madrid and Barcelona, could this signify a change of the guard in Spanish football?

Atletico were the last team other than the big two heavyweights to win the league when Simeone guided them to the title in the 2013/14 season, historically winning the title at the Camp Nou. As his side continue to flex their muscle at the top and the others continue to play catch-up, Simeone and his men look as though they’re here to stay and take advantage.

Atletico Madrid v Chelsea Tips

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Array of talent, perfected by genius defence

Simeone deserves an immense amount of credit for the way he continues to revamp and rejuvenate his side. They’ve had to sell the likes of Thomas Partey, Alvaro Morata and Diego Costa this season and even all-time top scorer Antoine Griezmann to La Liga rivals Barcelona a few years back, but they haven’t been missed with plenty of players stepping up.

The Argentine has built a team that has it all, including solidity at the back. They have arguably the best goalkeeper in the world in Jan Oblak, who has been a dependable wall in net for the past six years he’s been at the club. Incredibly, Oblak has 116 clean sheets in 213 appearances for Atletico – a remarkable stat showing how important the 28-year-old is to the team.

The Slovenian also has some top-quality defenders in front of him that are obeying the Simeone system beautifully. After former captain Diego Godin left in 2019, Jose Maria Gimenez has filled his place as the leader of the defence, often a back three. He’s usually partnered by any one or two experienced defenders that Simeone can choose from, whether it be the Brazilian Filipe, Mario Hermoso or Stefan Savic.

In the midfield, there are some experienced generals augmenting the midfield, with the current captain Koke along with another talented midfielder in Saul Niguez. Geoffrey Kondogbia has been a good addition to the side since his arrival from Valencia in the winter window for close to £15m. Marcos Llorente also continues to put in some great performances, with eight goals and seven assists in his 23 appearances so far.

Atletico look astute throughout the side and more drilled as an outfit than most in Europe, and whilst the likes of Barcelona and Real really on individual brilliance, Atletico perform as a unit, defend in numbers and attack tactically. Simeone has once again got them drilled right down to a tee.

Atletico v Chelsea Odds

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ATLÉTICO MADRID TO WIN 1-0, 2-0 OR 2-1 @ 5/2

The defence is just one part of their puzzle

The most entertaining and exciting part of the Atletico team is the attacking prowess up front, which is something that has been lacking since the departure of Griezmann in 2019. Joao Felix struggled to live up to his wonderkid status when he made the record move from Benfica in 2019 for over £110m, but has had a superb season so far.

The 21-year-old has recorded six goals and five assists in 11 starts for his team this campaign, forming a great partnership up front with Luis Suarez. Suarez himself has been a revelation for the league leaders, and proving to be a terrible sale on Barcelona's behalf. The Uruguayan marksman signed after being discarded by Barcelona in a surprising deal that looks like a huge error of judgement by the Catalonian outfit, as he outscores absolutely everybody in La Liga right now, bar his ex-colleague, Lionel Messi.

Suarez now has an incredible 16 goals in 20 appearances, showing he’s still got the top-class quality he’s had in front of goal throughout his career, netting typical Suarez-esque goals and once again proving his doubters (Barcelona, more so) that he is of the elite standard. The ex-Liverpool man is enjoying his time up front for Simeone’s side, whether he’s partnered with Felix, Angel Correa, or new signing Moussa Dembele; as long as the ball is in the box into him, something tends to happen.

Dembele is another strong addition, joining on loan from Lyon in January with an option to buy the Frenchman if they choose to make the switch permanent. Former Celtic striker Dembele scored 45 goals in 108 appearances Lyon, and whilst he's yet to make more than one league appearance, he's just another option to Simeone's plethora of talent and another reason why this side have once again risen from the shadows.

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Will they Win La Liga?

The simple answer is yes, as they are the clear favourites. However, with the Champions League now back, things will not be plain sailing.

There have been clouds hanging over both the Camp Nou and the Santiago Bernabeu this season, as Real and Barcelona continue to be pegged back with the old guard leaving or decreasing in ability, whilst their traditional systems don't seem to be working.

The recent Champions League performance from Ronald Koeman’s side shows just how much they have fallen off in recent times, being swept aside 4-1 at home to Paris Saint-Germain, and they never really looked in the game. The same could be said of Los Blancos, who, like Barca, have lost four games in the league already this season after winning the title with only three defeats last season.

As both Real and Koeman's side continue to take one step forward then two steps back, there is no doubt that Simeone and his side can take advantage and get their hands on the club’s 11th La Liga title this season. If the big two continue to flounder, Atletico have the talent and manager in charge to become the dominant force in La Liga not just for the rest of this season, but for the future

By Jordan Edmonds

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