To say that this year has been a disappointment for Atletico Madrid would be a huge understatement. It has been downright abysmal and they are in an all out free fall. Other teams, like Liverpool for example, have been up and down. They win one week against Manchester United and make you think they are coming together, but then they lose the next week to Fulham (how about that Clint Dempsey by the way? Why isn't he the captain of our National Team again?). But Atletico Madrid is falling fast and it's hard and sad to watch.
Ten years ago in the 1999/2000 season, Atletico had a terrible season and they were relegated to the Segunda Division. They spent a couple years in the Segunda division and finally pulled themselves out of it in 2002. The following years were the coming of age years for Fernando Torres where he started to make his mark on the world stage. He really left a mark and a blow for the team when he left for Liverpool in 2006. However the team continued to progress. In the 2007/2008 campaign they finished 4th in La Liga and qualified for Champions League. Last year they finished 4th again and again qualified for the Champions League. For a team that constantly plays second fiddle in their own town to Real Madrid, they finally seemed as though they had established a solid foundation and were going to be constant legit league contenders.
Then they hit the ten year mark. This year is the 10th anniversary from their last relegation season and given their recent success it's hard to comprehend that Atletico could be off to such a terrible start. Yesterday they tied Chelsea in their Champions League match. Normally a tie against Chelsea is somewhat of a victory. However, having lost two of their first three group games and tying the other one, the tie yesterday to Cheslea eliminated Atletico from any possibility of advancing to the knock out stages. Atletico has only two points in their group while Chelsea and Porto sit at the top with ten and nine points respectively. Even with wins in their next two matches, Atletico cannot overtake the top two teams. Their Champions League season is done.
At least there is always next year, except that "next year" probably won't happen because they can't even compete in La Liga at the moment. They have 1 win in 9 matches, and 4 ties and 4 loses. They have a -9 goal differential and only 7 points in La Liga. Currently they are 18th in La Liga and if the season were to end today, they would be relegated again. It is still somewhat early in the season and it's doubtful they will be relegated, but it's also extremely unlikely they will be competing on the European stage next season. They are already a distant 11 points behind 4th place Valencia. Granted, eleven points isn't an impossible task to overcome, but it seems doubtful with the way the team is playing.
It's the team play which has been most difficult to figure out about Atletico this year. Besides their goalie, the team is essentially the same. Yet for whatever reason, they cannot find the chemistry and piece things together like they did in the past two years. You can see from the highlights against Chelsea that they have flashes of brilliance and enough talent to put together quality attacks, but they continue to fall short and cannot play for a full 90 minutes. Last season Diego Forlan was incredible and scored 32 goals in La Liga which earned him the Golden Boot or Pichichi. This year he has only 3 goals in 8 La Liga matches. If that pace continues, he will finish with only 12 goals, a massive drop off from last year. Not that Forlan is entirely to blame (he does sport a lucky mullet -who wouldn't with those golden locks?). The entire team has only scored 10 goals in the 8 matches. Not the worst in La Liga, it's far better than a team like Xerez which has only has 3 total goals. But they are far off the league leaders who have roughly 24 goals already, and also far off their pace of last season when they finished with 80 goals.
On Saturday Atletico will host Real Madrid for the Madrid derby. A win would be a huge boost for Atletico. They need some sort of spark to get the team going. They are in an all out free fall at the moment. It doesn't make sense that they should even be in their current position, so who knows when the free fall will end. A win against Real might stop the fall, but a loss at home to their city rivals, could accelerate the fall and only make things worse. It already looks as though the ten year curse has a hold on Atletico Madrid and has destroyed their season. Hopefully the team can stop the free fall before history repeats itself and the season is completely destroyed and the curse relegates them all the way down to the Segunda division again.