More than half the season gone. 14 league games to go and a Champions League charge to look forward to, now is a good time to reflect on our start of season expectations, and see what our realistic ambitions should be as we come to the end of the 2014/15 season.
Following our miraculous title win and European final last year, most fans have set their eyes upon another title this year round. But the club – Simeone, the players and the administration – quickly dismissed those ambitions and announced clearly at the start of the campaign that the goal for this year is to finish in the Champions League places in the league, a good run in the European Cup, and if luck allows it, a Copa del Rey win to continue the tradition of a title a season since Simeone took over. (We’re not going to count the Spanish Super Cup this season).
Our coach had the foresight to know that his rivals would be the likes of Valencia, Sevilla and Villarreal. He was right, as we can see from the league standings. Valencia is trailing us by a mere 3 points, Sevilla would not have been too far away had it not been for this weekend’s loss, and Villarreal are catching up following their recent form and threatening to challenge for top positions.
It is true that Barcelona, currently in second, are only ahead by with three points. Real, with tough fixtures to come, may lose some points and give us another dogfight for the title this year as well. But no one can foresee what injuries or suspensions we may have to endure, or any Celta-esque set-backs we may have to suffer. It is safe to say that we are on track regarding our Liga ambitions.
With a Champions League last 16 tie against Leverkusen on the horizon, and having qualified as champions from a group which included the star-studded Juventus team, we can also say that our Champions League run is going smoothly. But we should take heed from Nachiketh’s warning, where he observes how dangerous Bayern Leverkusen can be, and how Atleti need to be aware of complacency.
One cannot deem our Copa del Rey run a failure – we beat Real Madrid, and then had the tough task of facing La Liga’s second powerhouse in Barcelona straight afterwards. Obviously Simeone was banking on this tournament to get something this year, but now his attention is focused elsewhere.
However it’s not trophies that will make or break Atleti this season, but progress forward. Progress to a point in the club’s development where we can keep hold of our most important assets.
Reports have surfaced this weekend about Simeone’s contract extension, and the man himself confirmed there was some truth to the rumours. If it is true and the big boss signs till 2020, then we are moving in the right direction.
It is not a coincidence that this has come a few weeks after the Chinese tycoon Wang Jianlin and his Wanda group bought a 20 per cent share of the club. It is clear that they mean business, and have set upon investing into a rising club.
Come the summer transfer window, Atleti’s season will be judged not only on the results on the field, but also if they can maintain the likes of Arda Turan, Koke and Griezmann.
Whispers of prying eyes sniffing about have surfaced, with familiar names in Manchester City, United, Chelsea, PSG and even Real and Barca.
For once, here is an Atleti fan hopeful that this summer’s activities pass quietly at the Calderon, so I can say that we have progressed.
It is doubtful that we can achieve that without another miracle, meaning we might need another league medal, or a historic Champions League victory, or even both!
For ever, Aupa Atleti.
Tarek is an Atlético fan from Lebanon who is clearly excited about the match with Leverkusen on Wednesday. You can find him on Twitter at @hachem_tarek.