All right, so, four months and 18 days later…wait, what?
It’s only been six days since the Málaga game you say?
After seemingly an eternity since Atlético spurned the chance to celebrate at Neptuno last weekend, the time is finally nigh.
Los Rojiblancos have one more chance to secure the elusive league title in their last stand against Barcelona on Saturday.
The title-deciding clash of the season is set to kick-off at 18:00 CET, and Atleti need either a tie or a win to hoist the Primera División trophy for the first time since 1996.
It’s been over 60 years since the league championship in Spain’s top flight has boiled down to a final match day showdown between the top two teams, so the vast majority of spectators are in for a once-in-a-lifetime treat.
A year to the day since a Miranda extra-time header decided that epic battle at the Santiago Bernabéu, Diego Simeone’s men will look to add yet another chapter to the Colchoneros’ richly colourful story.
One of the main characters of this new tale, Diego Costa, is back at ‘El Cholo’s’ disposal.
The club’s top marksman — with 27 league goals to his name and 36 overall on the year — sustained a hamstring injury over a week ago and was sidelined for Málaga’s visit, but will take the risk of suiting up against the Culés.
And the risk is a big one. If Costa aggravates his hamstring, there’s a good chance he’ll miss out of the Champions League final next weekend.
But Simeone is all in, assuring that the Brazil-born Spain international “trained with no problems and will take part from the start”.
“To have arrived at this point, we have put in a lot of work and effort,” the Rojiblanco boss, who has enlisted all 22 of his players for this bout, told reporters at Friday’s pre-game press conference.
“It has not been easy, but we are here on merit. I have very nice feelings. It’s a big game. We go there with intent and desire to compete.
“Hopefully the team will be prepared to show that on Saturday.”
Despite this being a relatively down year for our opponents, Cholo warned: “Barcelona never stopped competing, that allows them to have this possibility.
“They are always a dangerous team.”
Atleti’s back-line has been Europe’s stingiest in the present campaign, and have held Barça’s fearsome attack scoreless in three out of the sides’ five encounters against each other this season.
Cholo’s ‘Fantastic Four’ are all available, as Diego Godín is back from suspension–a major shot in the arm for Atleti and their hopes of shutting out Messi and Co. once more.
Speaking of the four-time Ballon d’Or winner, on Friday, he reportedly signed a mega-deal that will keep him in the Ciudad Condal through 2018 and net him over €20 million per year after taxes! Psshh…he doesn’t need another league title.
Either Simeone or his compatriot, Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino, will become the fifth Argentine manager to win La Liga.
Martino received the good news that Neymar, Gerard Piqué and Jordi Alba have all recovered in time to make the match selection, though it’s unclear if either of the three will take part from the start.
Carles Puyol on the other hand, will not be making a return from his knee injury, and has already played his final match in blue and red.
The La Masia product has bid his teammates farewell following a dream career at his boyhood club.
One man that hopes to follow a very similar path, but at Atlético, is Koke.
“It would be very nice and very special [to win the league title],” the Atleti youth product said.
“It’s a dream to play for the club of your life and win a title–a league championship or the Champions League. It would be spectacular.”
Yes it would brother Koke, yes it would.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Aranzubia, Courtois
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Alderweireld, Manquillo, Giménez, Juanfran, Insua, Miranda
Midfielders: Mario, Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Arda, Cebolla, Gabi, Diego, Sosa
Forwards: Adrián, Villa, Costa
Barcelona match selection: TBA