Atletico Madrid, the reigning La Liga champions, may have just seen any shot of repeating evaporate on Saturday in Sevilla. Diego Simeone's side, riddled with injuries in defense, looked set to earn a draw or potential win before conceding a late goal that sealed a 2-1 loss. The defeat sees Los Colchoneros fail to move into the top four, while keeping them 13 points back of current title favorites Real Madrid.
With so many issues at the back, Atleti looked like they would be able to weather the storm, even after conceding early, but things fell apart late with both defenders and midfielders failing to react on a loose ball with Lucas Ocampos scoring the winner in the 88th minute.
Entering the match, these are the injuries Simeone had to deal with in defense:
- CB Jose Maria Gimenez: Out since early December with a muscle injury
- CB Stefan Savic: Out since early December with a muscle injury
- RB Sime Vrsalkjo: Out since early December with a head injury
And those injuries, including their starting centerback pairing, have resulted in poor performances, especially when you consider Simeone has had to start center midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia to help fill that centerback void for the past three games.
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The injuries have even caused Simeone to use three at the back at times, with Kondogbia as the main defender with the now-injured Vrsaljko on the right. That's how they lined up during their crucial, yet fortunate win at Porto in the Champions League on Dec. 7 where they allowed an xG of 1.58 and saw Porto get a red card after Atleti received one of their own. Atleti have a date with Manchester United in the round of 16 on Paramount+.
Since we flipped the calendar to December, Atleti have failed to win a league match, pushing them out of contention to win the title again. First came that stunning 2-1 loss at home to Mallorca on Dec. 4, followed by the humbling 2-0 defeat to rival Real Madrid on Dec. 12 and then Saturday's disastrous ending against Sevilla.
There was a 15-game stretch between last season and this season where Atleti did not concede multiple goals once, with their main centerback pairing playing a huge role. In their past four games, it's happened three times. And since Oct. 19, it's occurred eight times.
It's been over five years since Atleti have lost three out of four, but here we are. The reasons can be chalked up to a lack of execution, but not having a fit squad plays a huge role. This isn't the same Atleti when Diego Godin was the best defender in the world and dominating time after time. But this is still an Atleti that can rival any team in the world when healthy. And just like every big club, an injury or two can quickly make them look mediocre.
So with this result, the chance at repeating as La Liga champs seems likely gone. But don't be shocked if that fuels them come February, with Simeone eyeing health and a deep run in the Champions League knockout stages.