x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Atletico Madrid eye a perfect 10

Simeone's men have won nine successive Primera Liga games and are looking good to continue their run, writes Andy Mitten.

Radamel Falcao, right, took his season's tally to nine goals with his brace for Atletico Madrid against Malaga. Alberto Di Lolli / AP Photo
Radamel Falcao, right, took his season's tally to nine goals with his brace for Atletico Madrid against Malaga. Alberto Di Lolli / AP Photo

The 96,000 crowd spilt out of Camp Nou on to the streets of Barcelona after another exhilarating clasico on Sunday. They walked past cafes where television screens were surprisingly not filled with reruns of the two Lionel Messi goals – or the two from Cristiano Ronaldo.

There was another big game on, second versus third, Atletico Madrid against a Malaga side who have been the most impressive team in the Champions League so far.

Both were unbeaten, both in uncustomary elevated positions and a near sellout 52,000 crowd – 8,000 up on Atleti's average last season – filled the Vicente Calderon.

The Rojiblancos are a huge club, the third best supported in Spain.

Those fans applauded the clasico result as both teams dropping points was good for them. Not only would victory allow them to extend their lead over Real Madrid to an unimaginable eight points, but they would go joint level on points with Barcelona at the top of the Primera Liga.

Filled with optimism at such a prospect, the Atleti fans chanted, "Ole, ole, ole, Cholo Simeone" in honour of Diego Simeone, the coach and legendary former player who has turned their club around since being appointed 10 months ago.

In Barcelona, the game remained on in the background as fans discussed what they had seen in the clasico. When the Atletico side took the lead after five minutes, Barca fans asked if it was Radamel Falcao. It was.

Roque Santa Cruz, the striker on loan from Manchester City, equalised for Malaga, but Falcao scrambled in a last-minute winner for his ninth league goal of the season, enough to keep him ahead of Ronaldo and Messi in the Pichichi chart.

Atleti are now joint league leaders. They are holding their nerve under pressure, showing their quality and living the dream.

They have now won nine competitive games in succession and while their most important player is unquestionably Falcao, they have got a solid side.

Atleti fans know better than to get carried away and their players appreciate that when you are at the top, everyone wants to beat you.

They travel north to Real Sociedad a week on Sunday, hoping to continue their 100 per cent away record. They will meet a side with a 100 per cent home record.

Something has to give, but it does not look like being Atletico at the moment.

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