Atletico Madrid is one of the biggest clubs in Spain, yet it’s historically flanked by two giants – Real Madrid and Barcelona. Challenging for the La Liga title is one thing and winning it is another. When Diego Simeone’s men held off their city rivals last season, they won the crown for the first time since 2013, which shows how infrequently the club is in the running.
So, the idea that Simeone can mastermind a second league trophy in as many years might appear improbable, seeing as Real and Barca have won six of the last seven editions of the competition. However, Atletico probably has the greatest opportunity since the 1940s and 50s.
Lionel Messi is considered the greatest player of all time. Last season, he was undoubtedly the best player in Spain, Europe, and the world, even though Barca never really challenged for honors. His stats prove he can compete at the top level, given that he scored 30 goals and claimed nine assists in 2020/21.
Although the Argentine’s frustration at not winning titles boiled over and he handed in a transfer request, it seemed as if Joan Laporta managed to solve the problem as the club was ready to offer Messi a new contract. Out of nowhere, Barca’s hierarchy announced it couldn't afford the number ten’s wages and revoked the offer.
With Messi leaving, Barcelona’s side is much less impressive. Firstly, the team will lose 30 goals without a striker that can replace them. Secondly, Laporta has already moved players on to loosen the financial pressure. Thirdly, Sergio Aguero will be out for ten weeks. If the Atletico players are consistent, they will be in the picture at the end of the season, especially as one of the club’s rivals is weaker.
On the surface, everything appears quite rosy at the Bernabeu. Real didn’t win a major trophy last season, but at least the side competed by making it to the semi-finals of the Champions League. The squad also took La Liga to the final game of the season. With this info, it’s easy to see why the football betting odds put them as the +110 favorites for this season’s crown.
However, a lot of the club’s success in recent years has been down to Zinedine Zidane’s smart management. Thanks to a strong defensive pivot, the team could soak up pressure before releasing a devastating counterattack. Even last season, when the side was weak, the style reaped rewards.
The Frenchman is Real Madrid’s second most successful manager and has quit for the second time in three years. Carlo Ancelotti is a top coach, but is he good enough to take up the mantle? Florentino Perez, the president, didn’t think so in 2015 when he sacked the Italian after he won the Champions League. There’s not much evidence to suggest anything has changed, particularly since Ancelotti’s period with Everton wasn’t entirely impressive.
All the while, Atletico Madrid has gone under the radar, quietly preparing for a second crack at another La Liga title. Due to the state of the competition, this Atletico side is well-priced at +300 after the success of the 2020/21 campaign.