Are Atletico Madrid the real deal?



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When
the full-time whistle went at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday night, the
Atletico Madrid players had huge grins on their faces, and rightly so after
beating Real Madrid in their own back yard for the second time in four months.

The manager,
Diego Simeone, surely had a grin across his face too. Yet we can’t know for
sure as he was away up the tunnel almost as soon as
the final whistle blew,
perhaps to celebrate in private as the Argentine didn’t want to break his
serious persona.

Yes,
Atletico have won their first seven La Liga matches – equalling the La Liga
record along with Barcelona, who picked up their 7th win the same day – and
they only lost the Super Cup to Barca on away goals, but Simeone knows that
they have achieved nothing yet and there can be no public gloating until they
do.

Atletico led
their Madrid rivals for the majority of last season, only to finish behind them
in the end. They now lead Real by five points – a healthy advantage, but one
that can be clawed back.

And nobody
on this team seems to be getting carried away with themselves. There is no talk
of winning the league, nor any of finishing second. Instead the players and
manager have acknowledged the positive things written about them in both the
Madrid and Barcelona press, but are instead thinking just one game at a time.

That next
game is away to Porto and is just as important, if not more so, than the
Saturday night success at Real. A slip up here and all the positive talk in the
press will come to an end.

You might
think that coming back from Porto with anything less than a win could hardly be
called a “slip up” and that would be a fair point. Porto haven’t lost
a home game in the league or in Europe since February 2012.

However,
Atletico will never stop being judged and can only be considered a real
contender domestically and in Europe if they can consistently beat the big
names. That means following up a win at the Bernabeu with one over another
Iberian giant.

It will be
tough, not only because it’s an away trip to Porto, but because Atletico will
be without star striker and derby-scoring hero Diego Costa, who serves the last
match of a UEFA ban.

David Villa
will, therefore, lead the line and he is no stranger to big European nights
having scored once in the biggest of them all – a Champions League final.

And, with
Belgian keeper Thibaut Courtois recovering from a knock with Gareth Bale, this
side certainly has the talent to leave the Dragão with a win, just as they sent
Zenit St Petersburg home defeated in the first group game without Costa.

A point
would be a good result. A win would keep the optimism around the Vicente
Calderon stadium at an all-time high.

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– GMS

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Victor Ndah
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cool…

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