There are two ways to look at the shock defeat of Barcelona in the Clasico on Saturday: good for Atletico Madrid, and bad for Atletico Madrid. Admittedly, we’re looking solely at Atletico Madrid here.
The good is this: it was unlikely that Barcelona was going to slip in the remaining league matches of the season. Most had assumed the title was all but tied up—and not just the title, but second and third places, too, which would go as it currently stands to Atletico in second and Real Madrid in third.
But Real Madrid’s victory in El Clasico on the weekend, along with the superior 5-1 win over Real Betis from Atletico mean that the title isn’t as assured any longer.
The gap has closed to a mere six points between Atleti and Barça. While Barcelona would have to do some considerable slipping for that point difference to be overtaken, count on Atleti to be sharpening razor-like teeth, especially with the big Champions clash this week between the two.
The bad is this: if nothing changes, and Barça retain their league lead, then Real Madrid have just sent a serious warning to second-place Atleti: watch out. The Clasico win means Real Madrid are just a point away from Atleti’s heels now.
In a press conference ahead of the Champions quarter final first leg, Gerard Pique said, “I am still convinced Barcelona will win La Liga. We have a great team. There will not be a team out there that is higher on confidence than us. We were in control until the 1-1 [in the Clasico]. We were not sure whether to go for it from there on.” (h/t BeinSports)
“Tuesday’s game is very important,” he added. “We are in fine shape physically and mentally.
“We don’t need a wake-up call. We all know how difficult it is to win. We have a tough task ahead. We want to win the treble and have to take an important step on Tuesday to get closer to reaching our goal.
“We have had a hard time beating Atletico in the past, but we have found a way to beat them. I expect a similar game to the one at Camp Nou a few weeks ago [a 2-1 home win]. We will try to score goals, but we realise they are a dangerous team.”
“All that matters to me is winning the Champions League.”
Funny, that’s something one would suspect Diego Simeone of saying. In his press conference, El Cholo said, “We know that tomorrow’s game will be decisive and will mark the future of the tie. We are preparing for a difficult game, tough and competitive, against the best Barça possible, but we will do all in our power to reduce their chances.”
“I’m optimistic because we have worked very well and we hope to improve.”
“It’s important that the 18 players understand that each minute is a lifetime. The result we are aiming for at the Camp Nou is a victory.”
He added his usual praise of the opponent’s manager: “They are doing things spectacularly well with Luis Enrique and it will be a tough tie.”
The two play on Tuesday at Camp Nou. It is arguably the most important match of the season for Atletico Madrid.