|Photo credit: AndhikaMPPP.|
Atletico Madrid enjoyed one of the best games against their arch rivals Real Madrid after a spectacular 4-0 victory at the Vicente Calderon. It goes some way into erasing the painful memories of last season’s Champions League final when Atletico were inches away from getting a famous victory only to be pegged back by Madrid. The victory moves Atletico to within four points of Real Madrid, who have been struggling with poor form since the season resumed following a short break. Betfair has reduced the odds of Atletico winning the Primera division from 20/1 – a week ago – to 8/1 after this victory.
Carlo Ancelotti’s team appeared to put behind the poor form in the last month by managing to pull together a run of four straight victories. Impressively, some of those victories were achieved without top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, who returned back to the starting line-up against Atletico. The Portuguese superstar, though, was unable to add to the 28 goals that he has scored in the league. Madrid were largely disappointing, as they struggled to get into the game throughout the 90 minutes. The fact that they ended the match without any shot on target was a reminder that this was one of the worst performances from Real Madrid in recent years.
|Diego Pablo Simeone|
in September 2013.
Photo credit: Carlos Delgado.
Since beating Atletico 4-1 in the Champions League final, Madrid are yet to beat their less illustrious crosstown rivals. Ancelotti will have been disappointed by the way his team were opened up time and time again. Sami Khedira was the only defensive minded player in the centre of the midfield, but the German international did not track back sufficiently to help out the defence. Madrid paid a high price for the recent victories against the likes of Sevilla. The likes of Sergio Ramos and Pepe were unavailable. Nacho and, the relatively inexperienced, Rafael Varane were unable to cope with the attacks down the flanks.
Atletico clearly had a game plan and concentrated on hitting the opposition in the flanks. This resulted in lot of spaces for the midfield duo of Tiago and Gabi to exploit. Even though they were in danger of being outnumbered by the trio of Isco, Toni Kroos, and Khedira, it turned out to be the visitors who were outnumbered in midfield. Such was the industry and work rate of the reigning la Liga holders. The title race in Spain has been thrown wide open with this result. Barcelona took advantage of the table leaders dropping points by getting a 5-2 win over Athletic Bilbao. It moves them to within a point off Ancelotti’s team.
While the traditional duo of Barcelona and Real Madrid continue to remain as the title favourites, Atletico can no longer be ruled out. They can still spring a surprise since they are only four points off the top. Barcelona have been scoring goals for fun with Lionel Messi once again looking like enjoying the game. Since the shock 1-0 defeat against Real Sociedad, Luis Enrique has overseen nine consecutive victories in all competitions. Barcelona could not have wished for a much better form at a crucial time in the season. They are up against the likes of Villarreal and Malaga in the league, while the return of the Champions League knockout stages sees Barcelona take on Manchester City once again in the last 16 round.
|Photo credit: AndhikaMPPP.|
Both Barcelona and Real Madrid are at home for the next league match against Levante and Deportivo la Coruna respectively. Atletico are on the road and they take on mid-table Celta de Vigo. Betfair expects Madrid and Barcelona to get comfortable victories from their next league matches. Madrid are given odds of 1/14 for a win while Barcelona are placed at 1/20 for three points against Levante.
Ancelotti was riding on an incredible wave of success towards the end of 2014 when his Madrid team went beyond 20 successive victories. There was also the FIFA Club World Cup title to add to the other accolades in 2014. The year 2015, though, has started on a very difficult note for the reigning European champions. It remains to be seen if the former AC Milan, Chelsea, and Paris St Germain manager will make changes to the team for the next league match. Any club can struggle with an injury list featuring the likes of Ramos, James Rodriguez, and Luka Modric. Despite their impressive squad strength, Madrid have shown that they are not immune to such occurrences over the course of a season. The true strength of the team will be reflected by the way they bounce back from this huge setback.
For Atletico, it is a case of continuing to do what they have done so well since the arrival of Simeone.This was a sponsored article.
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