Villaflor: Atletico: the club to keep an eye on

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Thursday, March 13, 2014


BAYERN Munich, FC Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, and Atletico Madrid have secured quarterfinals slots in the UEfa Champions League.

Bayern and Barca are European giants, while PSG and Atletico are both seeing some resurgence in recent years.

Atletico, though, is quickly emerging as a force to be reckoned with in the tournament, after it disposed of AC Milan 4-1 last Wednesday to advance 5-1 on
aggregate.

Although Milan has been struggling of late, it’s still a club with pedigree, carrying an intimidating lineup of big names the likes of Kaka, Robinho, Mario Balotelli and Michael Essien.

But Atletico, which slugs it out against the likes of hometown rivals Real Madrid and FC Barcelona in Spain, was not to be intimidated by Serie A royalty and, instead, gave the Italian club a comprehensive beating at the Estadio Vicente Calderon in Madrid.

Milan had a bit more possession but fell short where it mattered. Atletico converted four of its 13 shots on goal: two by Diego Costa and one each by Arda Turan and Raul Garcia. Kaka gave Milan it’s lone goal, out of 11 attempts.

With the exception of David Villa who is recovering from an injury, Atletico hardly has any big names in its roster. Costa, though, is beginning to draw attention with a string of stellar performances both in Spain and Europe.

This season, Costa has scored seven goals in five games in the Champions League, where he is the fourth top scorer. In the La Liga, Costa is second with 21 goals. Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo leads both leagues with goals.

What this means that Atletico have a top-class striker in their hands, and manager Diego Simeone, the man responsible for continuing the club’s resurgence, has brought out the best in the newly naturalized Spaniard.

Under Simeone, Atletico won the 2012 Europa League, the 2012 UEFA Super Cup championship (4-1 against Chelsea), and the 2013 Copa del Ray (2-1 against Real Madrid). After ending the 2012-2013 La Liga season at third, it now sits at second season, just three points behind Real. Snapping at Atletico’s heels is Barca, a point behind.

With the two Diegos leading the way, Atletico Madrid might just pull off a Champions League shocker in the games to come.

(nsvillaflor@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 14, 2014.

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