Simeone, singled out for being a coward after a black night against Milan that left four teams in the League in an extreme situation for the last match
Cholo Simeone deserves a statue next to that of Luis Aragonés in the vicinity of the Wanda Metropolitano, but football is forgetful and the present leaves the Argentine coach very touched, the great one pointed out as a coward after the defeat against Milan that leaves Atlético on the edge of the cliff in the Champions League. The problems of the rojiblancos, bottom players in the absence of a day in the group of death, reflect the bad moment of the Spanish clubs in the great European showcase, no matter how much Javier Tebas, president of LaLiga, boasts of the local competition. Only Real Madrid are already classified for the second round in the absence of deciding only the leadership of their group against Inter at the Santiago Bernabéu. Nothing new in the only team in Europe that has exceeded 30 leagues.
There is only one precedent with four representatives from the same country playing for qualification on the last day of a group stage. It happened in the Bundesliga in 1999-2000, with Bayern, Dortmund, Leverkusen and Hertha in contention, according to MrChip data. In the specific case of Atlético, only once with Simeone did he fall in the initial phase and redeem himself by winning the Europa League. And he never presented a balance as poor as the current one at home. There are already six home games without Atlético winning, which in this edition of the Champions drew against Porto (0-0) and lost against Liverpool (2-3) and Milan (0-1). Only for three minutes has he been ahead on the scoreboard of this European Cup, and it was to win ‘in extremis’, with one more and a penalty, at San Siro.
It has better players but this Atlético, very undefined, has nothing to do with that rocky, physically brutal and competitive team to the maximum that, with much worse squads, rubbed shoulders with the greats of Europe and overcame the knockout stages against Messi’s Barça, the Bayern, Chelsea, Milan or Liverpool. Cholo is accused of making his players dizzy with constant system changes, of a lack of ambition in the peak moments, including the two Champions League finals lost in extra time and on penalties against Real Madrid, of playing too aware of the rivals, not knowing how to defend through possession of the ball and hardly generating chances with guys like Koke, De Paul, Lemar, Carrasco, Griezmann and Luis Suárez on the field.
Except against Barça and Betis in the League, this Atlético suffers this season in all its matches, pushed to the limit in the final stretch, either for or against. Distressing outcomes, with Mestalla 3-3 as the greatest exponent, which generate great physical and mental wear and tear and enormous uncertainty in the players and the coaching staff.
Against Milan, Atlético was flat, unable to endanger. Messias punished him for playing the tie shamelessly when he learned that Liverpool beat Porto and that result served him to be second and be able to go to the second round with a simple tie at Do Dragao. Now, he has to win there and, also, wait for Milan not to beat the ‘reds’. In that case, Atlético would have to win by one more goal than the ‘Rossoneri’. “I’m more optimistic than ever,” Simeone surprised after being overtaken by Stéfano Pioli on the Metropolitano board. As the Portuguese have one more point and the Lombards better overall goal difference, serious danger of ending up bottom and out of Europe.
Big door or infirmary
An even more complicated mission for Barça, in great trouble after the draw at the Camp Nou against Benfica. Xavi Hernández’s team has to win in Munich so as not to depend on the Lisbon team. Julian Nagelsmann’s team is already ranked first, but he doesn’t usually speculate. If it does not conquer the Bavarian capital, the Catalan team should expect a puncture from the Portuguese in Da Luz against the eliminated Dinamo Kiev. As a lesser evil, Barça would be in the Europa League.
Unai Emery’s Villarreal fell in La Cerámica to United and will play a final in Bergamo. If they draw or win against Atalanta, they will be in the round of 16, but if they lose they will go straight to the 16th of the Europa League. For Sevilla de Lopetegui, big door or infirmary. After beating Wolfsburg, the accounts are clear. To be in the round of 16, he needs to win in Salzburg, probably behind closed doors due to restrictions by the Covid. A draw could condemn him to last place if Wolfsburg beat Lille.