Atlético Miss The Knockout Round TrainBy: Al | December 16th, 2010
The reigning champions have been dumped out of the Europa League. All it took was two losses against a small Greek side to lose us enough points to get knocked out at the group stages of the Europa League. Today, Atletico faced a Bayer Leverkusen side with nothing left to play for on a bad pitch (it was really snowy, then it got muddy) and struggled with finishing chances. Unfortunately, Rosenborg played like crap against Aris and lost 2-0, ending Atleti’s title defense in shame. No more European football until at least August of next year, folks.
It was still a good match, as Atletico held its own on the snowy pitch against a strong opponent. The snow didn’t help as both sides played a little bit more careful as not to lose sight of the bright-orange ball, and Atleti had a couple of good opportunities (by Dominguez and Forlan especially) that were impressively stopped by Bayer’s reserve keeper. Patrick Helmes opened the scoreline in the 69th minute, basically putting the nail on our Europa League coffin, until Fran Merida scored to equalize three minutes later from a lucky Kun Aguero pass. The rest of the match continued with no luck, and finally Atletico was officially left behind as Bayer and Aris will now progress to the next round.
So what do we look forward to now? The only trophy that we have a realistic chance of winning is the Copa del Rey, which will continue next month against Espanyol. I’m thinking that the opposite of last season will happen. While Atletico was demolishing opponents in the Europa League, they struggled in the Liga and often didn’t care and lost some embarrassing matches. So now, they can focus on getting to a Champions League spot while focusing on only one tournament. Hey, if Getafe can make Copa finals consecutively, why can’t we? There are still many good fixtures left in the season and another tournament to worry about.
Atletico are apparently throwing offers at a bunch of players now that Simao is leaving: Miranda from Sao Paulo FC, Rakitic from Schalke, Juanfran from Osasuna, and whatever new players end up on the radar. I’m a tad bit worried about the change in formation that is claimed to happen once Elias joins us next month. We don’t want the players looking lost, as they aren’t really thriving in the current one as is. If right purchases are made (yeah right, not under Pitarch) and Quique can mastermind Atletico into a powerhouse, say hello to the Champions League next season again. In the meantime, all of Europe will continue to laugh at us while we will be savoring the “Europa League champions” patches on our kits while they last.