Far from pretty, a lifeless Atletico Madrid secured 3 valuable points against lowly Granada in the race to contest in Europe next year with a 2-0 win at the Vicente Calderon. Toward the end of the game, enigmatic coach Diego Simeone could be seen trying to fire up the home fans in spite of a game which would fail to inspire even the most seasoned of supporters.
Generating a reaction from the players however has been moderately successful as Madrid has since lost just one of his 13 games in charge following the departure of Gregorio Manzano in December. Challenging for Europe next season has become a distinct probability and objective with the former La Liga winner at the helm.
Subtle changes have been implemented during his short time in the dugout and have proved extremely effective in grinding out results and building valuable momentum which has coincided with the team’s gliding run into the latter stages of the Europa League. Travelling to the Stadio Olimpico and getting a positive result is no mean feat, but Atletico brushed aside one of Simone’s former clubs, Lazio, 3-1. To beat Besiktas in the next round by the same score line too is almost as impressive.
Perhaps the reason for a below par performance against Granada at the weekend was due to that victory over the Turkish giants on Thursday with a number of disappointing displays all around. Fatigue will be an increasing factor Simeone has to fight against, especially as Atletico desperately need European football next season to balance out their finances.
Priorities remain to be seen as yet, but European progress buoys the team on and has been the catalyst for the formidable run Atletico have been on. Tonight’s game versus Besiktas will be another huge test of moral resolve and fitness because Granada tried their hardest to grab a result on Sunday, only conceding the decisive second in injury time and down to 10 men.
A tricky game away to Mallorca on Sunday is the next one in line after the second leg in Turkey later today, and a similar performance to Sunday’s could be seen. But if Simeone extends his impressive record then he will no doubt be delighted.
Effective has been the keyword for Atleti’s displays under Simeone and have played with plenty of resolve during his reign. Grinding out another positive result gives Madrid frim ground for next season as they should by then be a confident and difficult team to beat.