1) Simeone’s Atletico are ripping up the Madrid form book
Once upon a time, Atletico Madrid just could not beat Real Madrid. But then along came Diego Simeone. And now, Real Madrid just can’t beat Atlético Madrid. At least not this season: on Saturday afternoon the sixth derby of the season was played out and there was a familiar outcome: Atletico, won again. They’ve now won four and drawn two; Real Madrid have not won once. But if the result was familiar, the scoreline was stunning. Goals from Tiago, Saul, Griezmann and Mandzukic gave Atletico an incredible 4-0 victory.
Fans could barely believe it. This was the first time that Atletico had won a league game against Real at the Calderon in almost 17 years and only once before had they won by more goals against their rivals – way back in 1947. They had not scored four in a derby at the Calderon in 38 years. It was their second league win of the season, making this the first time they had done the double over Real in more than 60 years.
Real will always have Lisbon, the biggest derby of them all in the European Cup Final, but the balance of power has shifted. Atletico Madrid, the team that went 14 years and 25 games without beating Real, crushed by the fatalism and the inevitability of it all, ended that run by winning the Copa del Rey at the Bernabeu. Then they won the league title.
This season they have taken the Spanish Super Cup from Madrid, knocked them out of the Copa del Rey and have now down the double over them in the league
Diego Simeone described his team as “brilliant”. He was right, too. Atletico scored four and could have scored more. The shots on target count read: 10-1. The dominance was total and the victory put Atletico back in the title race; defeat would have seen them slip ten points behind, instead they are within four points. “They deserved it; they were better than us in everything,” Carlo Ancelotti admitted.
2) Nine wins in a row for “crisis team” Barcelona
On Saturday, Madrid lost; on Sunday, Barcelona won. For the first time since Pep Guardiola left, they were able to win in Bilbao. It finished 5-2, meaning that a single point separates Barcelona and Madrid at the top of the table. The crisis has been turned around, on the pitch at least.
Since their defeat at Real Sociedad, which precipitated the calling of elections, Barcelona have won nine in a row. Leo Messi, in particular, was astonishing. “Perfection,” said Athletic manager Ernesto Valverde.
3) Bilbao’s special place
The Thinking Football Film Festival began in Bilbao this week, an event run by Athletic Bilbao’s Foundation – another illustration of their unique cultural and sporting status.
4) Late goals condemn Moyes to relegation fight
Celta scored in the 85th minute to make it 1-1, Rayo scored in the 81st to make it 1-0, Granada scored in the 79th to make it 1-1, Levante scored in the 93rd to make it 1-1 and Athletic scored in the 61st to make it 1-1.
It just keeps happening to Real Sociedad. That’s five of the last eight games that they have dropped points from a winning position and, Athletic apart, all of them in the final 11 minutes. Suddenly, with Carlos Vela out, a relegation battle looms for David Moyes’s side. “We have to keep it up for ninety minutes, not forty-five and not sixty,” Moyes warned.
And “warned” is the word: he said that before this run began.