This is part of a (mostly) weekly series for our dark horse chronicles, if you want to see some of the others I’ve written up you can check them out from our Dark Horse Chronicles category.
After a bit of a hiatus, I am itching to get back to my weekly Dark Horse column — recognizing clubs that are having a bumper season whether that means they are winning hardware or not!
This weeks club is one of the top tier teams in Spain’s La Liga, but it seems like whenever someone mentions La Liga, only Barcelona, and Real Madrid come to mind. This “other” Madrid is performing better than the more well-known club inside the same city limits.
Why do they deserve recognition?
In the 2017-2018 campaign, they finished 2nd in the league behind a blistering Barcelona team that finished with 93 points on the season. While they were 14 points beneath Barcelona at the end of the season, they did it with 40 fewer goals scored (and allowed seven fewer goals scored against them). In fact, in the 2017-2018 season, Atletico Madrid allowed the fewest goals of any team in La Liga, their “shortcoming” if you want to call it that, comes in much fewer goals scored as they were barely in the top-10 for goalscoring.
As a result of Atletico’s 3rd place finish in La Liga from 2016, they entered the UEFA Champions League Group Stage. However, the 2017 campaign in the Champions League was not ideal with Atletico Madrid not even escaping the Group Stages (while Real Madrid beat Liverpool in the final). Atletico beat eventual group champion Roma but generally struggled in the group (spoiler: they do better this year). After being transferred to the Europa League with a third-place finish in the group, they participated in the round of 32. They eventually won the Europa League Champions with a 3-0 victory over Marseille (in Lyon, France).
Starting in week 5, Atletico has remained in the top 5 ever since and have continued to improve on their standing eventually up to 2nd-place which they hold currently. They’ve been in sole possession of 2nd-place since Week 17 and haven’t looked back yet! So far this season Atletico are 5th in the league in goals scored, and they still have the fewest goals allowed (by a substantial five-goal margin). They are currently second in La Liga behind only Barcelona (by five points), and they have a bit of a cushion on the other Madrid side (also five points). There are a lot of Atletico Madrid fixtures still to be played, and stranger things have happened.
As I alluded to in the portion about last season, Atletico has avoided the Europa League entirely. That’s not to knock the Europa League, but the prestige and money (and, let’s be honest that’s what clubs care about) are far more significant in the Champions League. Atletico Madrid lost out on the Group winner by goal differential (Borussia Dortmund was +5 GD better off) but secured 13 of the 18 possible points. That makes them tied for 3rd (though there’s a tie for 2nd as well) in points won from the group stages. Atletico gets a tough draw against a Juventus team that is taking both the Serie A and they’ve looked good in Champions League matches (even though they played without Ronaldo for a few of them). The likelihood for winning the trophy (if Atletico can beat Juventus) depends on the answer to this Atletico Madrid vs. who?
Shameless plug for “something” that will drop in a couple of days that will cover this match up (and the rest of the Champions League match ups). I think that Atletico has a decent chance of advancing past the knockout stage — even though Juventus have been playing well. Our friends at FiveThirtyEight think so, too, giving them a 45% to make the quarterfinals.
On the home front, I think a second place finish is realistic for this team. I’m not even willing to count them out of winning the league because there are only a few (5) points between them and the top of the league. However, it will take some serious focus and some great results to make it happen! FiveThirtyEight also views them basically as a lock for a top-4 and thus, Champions League, finish — but also gives them a shot (just under 10%) to win the league. There’s a lot of time left to see how the Atletico Madrid results come out.
Last Updated: January 29, 2019