With only a match left to play after 13 rounds of La Liga, Atlético find themselves in the no-man’s land they’ve become accustomed to dwelling in the past couple of seasons.
In 2010/11 Atleti finished in seventh, a slight improvement on their ninth place finish from the year before.
Our current campaign is a week-to-week see-saw, with the fat kid sitting on the side representing our away games.
We have fallen to 11th in the league standings with 16 points, 10 points behind fourth place holders Levante.
For the most part (judging by predictions in our Prediction League section, most notably @palc’s bleak 93-0 stab at the final scoreline), coming into the derby on Saturday, all hope was lost – though I presume I wasn’t the only one who experienced a blind surge of optimism moments before the clash kicked off.
But when I saw our boys finally doing justice to our club anthem, “fighting like brothers and defending their colours”, with a “noble game” and “showing courage and heart”, as cheesy as it sounds, I started to believe.
This could be the day we end the ‘white spell’.
Adrián, Arda, Diego, Salvio, Filipe, Perea, Assuncao, all were playing some truly inspiring football, which reached a crescendo with Adrián’s wonderful strike that sucked the remaining life out of an already lifeless Santiago Bernabéu stadium.
Moments later, a hugely unfortunate incident abruptly tore us out of our dream.
We knew we were doomed, but nothing was going to take away the pride we had in our players. It was a moment of solidarity for the Colchonero faithful.
My wish is that the team draws inspiration from what they were able to achieve before Courtois was sent off and Real Madrid were awarded their first of two penalties.
Sergio Asenjo said it best on Saturday: “When we have desire and we run and fight, we are difficult to beat.”
Obviously, Atleti’s biggest problem is that they very rarely show the type of desire Asenjo spoke of, at least, on a consistent basis.
In the next couple of weeks, los Rojiblancos will be taking part in Europa League, Primera División and Copa del Rey action.
On paper, all of our matches in this final stretch of 2011 are what we’d consider winnable.
We’ll have to make do without Sílvio, and a solid backup should be at the top of Caminero’s priority list for the winter transfer market.
But if the rest of our squad can stay healthy, there’s no reason why we can’t springboard to a Champions League spot.
We hit the jackpot with the free transfer of Adrián. It’s no wonder now that Deportivo president Augusto Lendoiro pulled out all the stops to try to keep the 23-year-old in Coruña last summer.
Arda has proven to be as complete a player as they come, while Diego has given us glimpses into his box of treasures.
Once Falcao and Adrián get on the same page and start opening up more spaces for each other, they can become every bit as lethal as the duo that preceded them.
Reyes remains the biggest question mark. Can he take the high road and move past his feud with Manzano, and vice-versa?
While we’ll never know what the outcome would have been had Courtois remained in the game, it truly did feel like it was our time.
Am I alone in my optimism? Will we continue to be defrauded, or do you feel like this can be a turning point for the club?