x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Atletico Madrid have earned neutrals’ favour in tussle with Spain’s big two

Spain has very few true neutrals as most fans have a preference for Barcelona or Real Madrid

Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone speaks at a news conference on May 10, 2014. Neutrals may admire what Simeone and his team have accomplished, but that does not mean they necessarily want Atletico to win the Primera Liga. Fernando Alvarado / EPA
Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone speaks at a news conference on May 10, 2014. Neutrals may admire what Simeone and his team have accomplished, but that does not mean they necessarily want Atletico to win the Primera Liga. Fernando Alvarado / EPA

Neutrals in Spain hope Atletico Madrid lift the league title. They consider it the romantic story, David being strong enough to go toe-to-toe with the Goliaths of Barcelona and Real Madrid.

There is only one problem. There are very few neutrals in Spain.

Almost everyone has a preference for Barcelona or Real Madrid, even if they support a different team. Such is the dominance of the big two that the fans consider it wise to like one of the giants.

It is normal for a Sevilla fan to prefer Madrid over Barca, for an Athletic Bilbao fan to like Barca more than Madrid.

That preference does not need to run deep, and there are millions who admire what Atletico have achieved under manager Diego Simeone, but can they deliver the knockout blow and win the league?

An Atletico title would be good for Spanish football and help dampen criticism that it is a two-team league, a veritable fact in recent years.

Sevilla were the last team to mount a serious title challenge in 2007, before falling away in the final week of the season. Since then, the big two have won the league with record point-and-goal hauls.

Valencia were the last team outside the big two to triumph in 2004. It is time for Atletico to now win their first title since 1996.

They did not fade as expected; they have played attractive football and shown a remarkable spirit. Incredibly, they have also been successful in the Uefa Champions League, reaching the final. This could be their greatest season.

Their exploits deserve reward and a title, not to be mocked at the end with a trophyless season. That would be the ultimate “Pupas” – the failure long associated with the club.

sports@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter at @SprtNationalUAE