Atletico were out-fought, out-thought and out-played by their Madrid rivals and it's a defeat that will linger for Simeone & Co.
The biggest conclusion from Saturday's 3-1 win isn't that Madrid are back in the title race, that Diego Godin's final La Liga battle with los Blancos finished in a miserable way for such a titan of Atletico's recent history, or even that
Atletico have been Barcelona's principal -- indeed only -- title challengers for some months. They're still in a position to make it to the Champions League final, which is to be held in their impressive, boisterous new Metropolitano stadium. They are still hard to defeat, they still sometimes win 1-0 and, in honesty, Saturday saw their first home loss in la Liga this season.
But sadly for them, those snapshots don't paint the whole picture. In terms of the things that once made Atleti great for their fans and horrible for their foes, this was an absolutely pitiful display.
Having been out-jumped defensively three times in a row last week at Real Betis during the move that cost los Rojiblancos three points ahead of this Derbi, I think the very least Atleti's fans could have expected was that it wouldn't happen again. But the breakthrough moment here came when Editors' Picks
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Next? Giving the ball away, not working to cover your direct opponent... these were anathema throughout the vast majority of Simeone's eight years in charge of a club he's taken to the greatest sustained success in its entire history. Traits forbidden, hated and almost never seen from his squad.
More, Atleti used to be utterly horrible to play against for rivals either domestic or European. They harassed you, chased you, barged you, out-fought you; they scared the living daylights out of most opponents. No longer. Last week at Betis, again during the move that ended with Felipe Luis giving away a penalty and Quique Setien's team winning 1-0, Angel Correa simply refused to sprint the roughly three meters with his man, Kroos, centre, was instrumental as Real undid their derby rivals to reclaim second place from their rivals.
Maybe Gimenez made a bad challenge; perhaps he was incorrectly judged by the officials. If Correa had been tougher, shrewder and more determined in the first place, then the Madrid counter-attack, something they've turned into an absolute speciality, wouldn't have taken place. It could have been prevented and therefore wouldn't have needed Gimenez' "cure."
Just as an addendum, the complete lack of "no way am I losing this ball!" from Correa, directly contrasted with the bullish determination from
If Simeone's power is weakening at Atletico, or his desire for a new challenge is intensifying, Saturday's defeat could be seen as a pivotal moment.
Losing is one thing, even if you lose two games in a week. What has no relationship at all with the previous eight years under Simeone, though, is the apparent lack of attention to detail, lack of personality, lack of aggression and lack of intensity that was shown here, all of which have been intermittent passengers on Atleti's journey this season.
Ultimately, having been the guys on the pitch, the players are to blame. But if we have all argued (and we have) that the Atleti side that has won the Copa, La Liga, the Europa League and the European Supercup were always a personification of their ultra-competitive, ultra-aggressive coach, then he can't be blameless now.
Is it the case that the Champions League dominates their consciousness so much that they are distracted? Can it be that the horrible option to hand the last 15 minutes of this ruinous Derbi to Madrid will save them sufficient energy to eliminate the Italian champions when they play?
I doubt Juventus will be looking at it that way.