Atlético Madrid’s European campaign for 2022/23 is over in full after a 2-1 loss to Porto left them bottom of Champions League Group B, below Bayer Leverkusen after securing a game 0-0 draw in their home game with Club Brugge.
Mehdi Taremi sliced through the Atleti defense like a hot knife through butter, and Stephen Eustáquio reveled in acres of space inside the penalty area to add a second on 24 minutes, making it makes the fourth fastest brace to be scored against Atleti in the Champions League.
In the end, Iván Marcano’s deflection from a Yannick Carrasco corner went into his own net and it was the only time Atlético could break through Porto’s defence.
Here are three things (painfully) learned from the game.
Things can always get worse
Finishing bottom of a Champions League group with a team in the Bundesliga relegation zone, Belgium’s third-best team and Portugal’s third-best team, is Diego Simeone’s biggest failure as a coach of Atlético de Madrid.
A week that includes being eliminated from the Champions League, a loss to the 19th-placed side in La Liga and now a complete departure from all European competition, is without a doubt the most disastrous week Atlético have faced in over of a decade.
Off the pitch, there is disunity, on top of that, there is a mess. And just as there was hope for 30 seconds against Cadiz, that hope lasted just 4 minutes and 31 seconds against Porto for the first Champions League goal conceded by Atleti since 2008.
That mentality and the dismal defense reflected a lower level of quality even than Atleti have shown in recent weeks. A lackluster striker and chaotic defensive end, a chaotic own goal from a corner turned out to be the only highlight for the visitors, if you can even call it that.
And all the while, 1,500 Atleti fans were out in force at Porto and remained loyal, cheering and chanting to the players even beyond the final whistle. Those who made the trip from the Spanish capital across the Portuguese border for the game enjoyed a bank holiday on Tuesday but now face a long journey back to Madrid.
“Our fans don’t deserve this,” said Antoine Griezmann after the final whistle.
It’s easy to agree with that, and few fanbases have been hurt by a team promising so much around the world this season.
Now touching this new low, some will wonder how much worse things can get.
The last second chance of João Félix
Back in his homeland, back in the starting lineup for the first time since the Madrid Derby in mid-September, and back on form after a brace against Cadiz on the bench, the stage was surely set for that João Félix becomes a hero. (all sorts)?
João drifted far to the left, where he seems to prefer playing, and created the weird touch and flash control. But there was no final product. Thirty-five percent of his actions ended in a loss of possession, so it’s no surprise that Cholo Simeone once again fired him in search of a spark in the final third.
We can talk about a lack of support for him, but he is a man who cost 126 million euros. He’s the one Atlético player Simeone should be able to rely on to create something out of nothing. He failed to create a single chance and he failed with both of his dribble attempts. Its price and self-confidence don’t seem to match the majority of its performance. Even though he performed well against Cadiz, it’s the only one of his last 20 matches where he’s been on the scoresheet.
This defeat, and the elimination of the Champions League as a whole, is not due to João Félix. But that begs the question of how many more chances he will have. Atlético fans were clamoring for consistency and for him to build on Saturday’s double, but they were once again disappointed.
So what’s the next step? With finances now necessarily tighter than ever due to lost revenue, a reduction in payroll and sales is needed. Isolated by Simeone, whose board are reportedly considering extending his contract until 2026, the Portuguese’s days must be numbered. He fails to speak or walk, while charging Atlético a handsome sum to do neither. His name will surely be among the best candidates to move on, even as early as January if the right offer arrives.
What happened to the mentality of Atlético?
In the space of four days, Atlético have conceded two goals in the first five minutes of play in two separate matches. On the occasion, one of Atleti’s most important European nights in years, with any type of European involvement on the line, the team lost two goals in 25 minutes.
And that’s understandable. Nahuel Molina is poor defensively. Reinildo is out of form for the first time since arriving. Stefan Savić looks more like a spectator than a defender. Josema Giménez looks as scared of getting injured as we look at him.
The same could be said of players selected on merit. Ángel Correa has been out of form for some time and Rodrigo de Paul has shown only flashes of talent since signing. Players like Geoffrey Kondogbia and Matheus Cunha may feel frustrated having been on the bench.
In the end, everything points to one thing on the pitch more than anything else: Koke’s absence. The captain is the one who rarely comes out injured, but when he is, he leaves a big hole in midfield. This time he also leaves a pretty big hole in the leadership.
Jan Oblak has done his best between the sticks with limited influence, while Giménez and Savić have the authority, if not the influence, to do more. Saúl Ñíguez looks like a shadow of himself in every way and Antoine Griezmann was missing.
It’s a team full of ego and talent, but devoid of any character. It’s the complete opposite of pure Cholismo, teams from 2013/14 and 2015/16. Where Juanfran and Gabi have commanded respect from teammates and rivals despite their limited talents, Rodrigo de Paul has his eye on the Latin Pop Awards night in Miami and João Félix has found time to play between tantrums. .
This team is a far cry from the glory days of Cholismo.
BUSINESS1 month ago
Westerham-based financial planning company buys first firm
FINANCE1 month ago
ESFA Update further education: 19 October 2022
AUTO MOBILE1 month ago
Chicago Drives Electric event in Oakbrook Terrace showcases latest EVs, with cars from Chevy, Ford, Volkswagen and more
HEALTH1 month ago
Vergeire not offered DOH chief post, admits reservations
WORLD1 month ago
Costco is selling ‘world’s largest’ jigsaw puzzle at 29 feet