Atletico Madrid win LaLiga 2020-21: The key games that sealed Simeone's second league title

By Sports Desk May 22, 2021

Atletico Madrid are Spanish champions again, Saturday's tense 2-1 win at Real Valladolid sealing the title seven years on from their only previous championship success under Diego Simeone.

Much like on that occasion, Atletico had to wait until the final day of the season to make absolutely sure of their triumph, something few would have predicted of their campaign not too long ago.

Simeone's men have been top for much of the season, granted, but in recent months their position at the summit became precarious.

It's fair to say they have ridden their luck over the past few weeks, including on Saturday as they had to come from behind at Valladolid, but their supporters will be fine with that after they eventually brought it home.

Following their title-clinching victory, we look back on the other matches that have been crucial in their success.

Atletico Madrid 6-1 Granada, September 27

Okay, maybe it's a little over the top to suggest Atletico's very first game of the season had much bearing on winning the title, but the manner of it was seriously impressive and set the tone for the rest of the campaign – even if they did draw their next two matches.

It was a particularly memorable outing for Luis Suarez, who, cast aside by Barcelona, netted a brace as he became the first player this century to score and assist on his Atletico debut.

Atletico romped to what was their biggest opening-day win under Simeone, and they've hardly looked back.

 

Atletico 1-0 Barcelona, November 21

Barca were in turmoil at times in the first half of the season and that gave Atletico the perfect opportunity to gain a psychological edge. With Suarez missing against his former club, the visitors might have fancied their chances, but Atletico prevailed to claim their first league win over the Blaugrana in more than 10 years.

Yannick Carrasco got the all-important goal as Atletico set a club record of 24 LaLiga games unbeaten, while Barca were left with just 11 points from their first eight league matches, their worst start to a season since 1991-92.

Eibar 1-2 Atletico Madrid, January 21

One aspect of Atletico's trip to Ipurua in January will be recounted time and time again by statisticians, and it's not that they came from behind to win. No, the most fascinating element of this game was that it was Marko Dmitrovic who broke the deadlock from the spot, becoming the first goalkeeper to score in LaLiga since Dani Aranzubia in February 2011. The last stopper to net a penalty was nine years before that.

 

But it was Atletico who had the last laugh. Suarez scored both of their goals, including a last-gasp penalty, to spare Los Colchoneros' blushes.

While a win away to Eibar – who've since been relegated – may not look like much, who's to say that having someone as reliable as Suarez to convert a late penalty under pressure wasn't the decisive moment in their title quest?

Barcelona 0-0 Atletico, May 8

At the halfway point of their season, Atletico were seven points clear at the summit with two games in hand on Real Madrid in second. They had been devastatingly effective in the first half of the season as they collected 50 points, but in the 18 matches since, that haul has plummeted to 33.

Atletico have been far more erratic since the turn and their trip to Camp Nou looked especially uncomfortable, as a defeat would have seen Barca go above them in the table, while any result other than a win will have given Real Madrid the initiative.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen impressed for Barca in the first half, making six saves, though clear-cut chances weren't exactly a regular occurrence, neither side even managing to reach 1.0 xG (expected goals) over the course of the game. Atletico faced a nervous wait to see if their neighbours would capitalise…

 

Real Madrid 2-2 Sevilla, May 9

The second part to a title-race double-header across May 8 and 9, Madrid and Sevilla both still fancied their chances of sealing the crown at this point, and what an occasion it was in Valdebebas.

Madrid looked to be heading to a remarkable defeat when they had a late penalty overturned because Eder Militao was controversially deemed to have handled in his own area at the start of the attack, with Ivan Rakitic converting the spot-kick to put Sevilla in front for the second time.

Toni Kroos saw a long-range shot deflect in off Eden Hazard deep into stoppage time but it was not enough – winning the title was no longer in their own hands.

 

Atletico 2-1 Osasuna, May 16

The title looked to be slipping from Atletico's grasp again last weekend, as Ante Budimir's 75th-minute header put Osasuna in front shortly after Madrid had gone 1-0 up at Athletic Bilbao – at this juncture Los Blancos were top by a point.

Renan Lodi levelled for Atletico with 82 minutes on the clock but that wasn't going to be enough, as they would still sit behind Madrid due to their inferior head-to-head record. They needed another.

 

With two minutes left, Suarez ended something of a mini-drought to clinch victory, his 20th goal of the season, a haul that had secured Atletico 19 points at that point – only Sevilla's Youssef En-Nesyri could match that at the time.

The goal sparked joyous celebrations on the pitch, Atletico's bench and in the stadium's car park where a group of supporters gathered.

It left them with the two-point advantage over Madrid that was required heading into the final day, with Simeone's men subsequently refusing to throw it all away against Valladolid, despite falling behind once again.

 

Oscar Plano put Valladolid in front in the first half, but Atletico rallied after the interval as Angel Correa netted a brilliant equaliser and Suarez sealed the win 23 minutes from time, Madrid's own turnaround against Villarreal elsewhere ultimately an irrelevence.

Atletico are the champions.

Related items

  • Chiellini feels De Ligt 'has everything', hopes Raiola does not alter Juve future Chiellini feels De Ligt 'has everything', hopes Raiola does not alter Juve future

    Giorgio Chiellini hopes Matthijs de Ligt is not taken away from Juventus by agent Mino Raiola, as he feels his defensive colleague already "has everything".

    Now 37, Juve captain Chiellini is in the final years of his career, but the future of the Turin giants appears to be in the hands of De Ligt.

    The former Ajax captain is still just 22 and is settled in Serie A in his third season with the Bianconeri.

    De Ligt underwhelmed a little following his €75million transfer to Italy but has since performed well, last committing an error leading to a chance in the league in his debut 2019-20 season.

    Although De Ligt has been limited to six appearances this term, with veteran duo Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci preferred against Inter on Sunday, he is certainly becoming a more dominant defender.

    No Juve defender is contesting (4.5) or winning (3.4) more aerial duels per 90 than De Ligt in 2021-22, while his overall duel success rate for the season is up significantly to 67.4 per cent.

    Indeed, Chiellini believes De Ligt has the full package, telling DAZN: "He's very strong, I call him Thor.

    "If he had been Italian, it would have been easier to keep him for many years, I hope that Mino will give us the pleasure of leaving him a few more years in Turin.

    "He has everything, but the difference is made in the head; he is 22 years old but has the mentality of someone of 30, and he sets himself the goal of wanting to improve every day."

    De Ligt arrived at Juve as Andrea Barzagli retired, but he still finds himself competing with the other two members of the great 'BBC' back line.

    That might not have been the case, however, as Bonucci briefly left for Milan – a move that upset Chiellini.

    "I was hurt. That Milan was a team in difficulty, it was not Real Madrid or even Milan of now," he said. "Today it would be different, but at the time going there meant taking a clear step back.

    "The choices remain personal and must be respected, but if we had been on holiday together that summer I would have made him understand that he was making a mistake. He realised it very soon."

    Chiellini also could have been out the door by now, revealing he considered retiring following the coronavirus outbreak but played on to star at Euro 2020, where Italy won the title.

    "I lived a hard period after my injury," Chiellini said. "I returned after six months and shortly after COVID broke out, and for almost a year I struggled to find the right balance.

    "The thought of retirement made its way into my head but it was the European Championship that kept me going with the desire to be there at all costs."

  • NFL Fantasy Picks: Jones to benefit from Packers' receiver woes, Pitts a must-start NFL Fantasy Picks: Jones to benefit from Packers' receiver woes, Pitts a must-start

    With the NFL approaching the midway point of its season, time is running out to stack fantasy wins and make a run at the postseason.

    Whether you're right in the mix or on the outside looking in, now is the moment to go on a run and ensure you will be playing in the championship bracket.

    The best way to do that is to identify the players with the opportunity to produce a performance that can serve as the backbone of a matchup-winning effort.

    Here Stats Perform looks at four offensive players and a defense who are well-positioned to do just that in Week 8.

     

    Quarterback: Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles @ Detroit Lions

    Hurts is developing a reputation as the king of garbage time stats and, though fantasy owners may not have the benefit of him playing from behind in garbage time this week, he does have an extremely favorable matchup to exploit.

    Through his abilities as a dual-threat quarterback, Hurts has accounted for 2,077 yards of offense and 15 touchdowns so far this season.

    He is averaging 245.1 passing yards per game and 51.5 yards on the ground. Going against a Detroit defense ranked 30th in yards per play, Hurts is a strong candidate to deliver gaudy fantasy numbers.

    Running Back: Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers @ Arizona Cardinals

    On the surface, Jones' matchup with a Cardinals defense ranked eighth in opponent yards per play allowed is a tough one.

    However, only the Los Angeles Chargers are allowing more yards per rush than the Cardinals (4.97), and Jones should see a heavy workload on the ground and through the air.

    Indeed, with Davante Adams a doubt after being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and Allen Lazard out for the same reason, Jones - who is second on the Packers behind Adams with 26 receptions - could see a bump in targets from Aaron Rodgers.

    Always a must-start as Green Bay's lead back, Jones' performance on Thursday could be a decisive one for fantasy owners, especially those who play in points per reception leagues.

    Wide Receiver: Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers vs. New England Patriots

    The Chargers will be out to get back on track as they return from a bye week following their Week 6 shellacking at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens.

    And they will be hopeful of hitting on several explosive plays against a Patriots defense that has given up its fair share.

    The Patriots have conceded 77 passes of 10 yards or more, the seventh-most in the NFL.

    That should be music to the ears of Williams, who has eight receptions of 20 yards or more, four games with at least seven receptions and a touchdown and two 100-yard performances. Expect this big-play threat to exploit a vulnerable New England secondary to a significant extent.

    Tight End: Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons vs. Carolina Panthers

    The Falcons are surging, and much of that is down to the play of rookie tight end Pitts, who is living up to the reputation that saw him picked fourth overall in this year's draft by Atlanta.

    Pitts has at least eight targets in each of his last three games and goes into Week 8 on the back of successive 100-yard performances.

    Having clearly earned the trust of quarterback Matt Ryan, Pitts is receiving the target share and delivering the production to make him a must-start regardless of a tough matchup against a Panthers defense allowing the third-fewest yards per play in the NFL.

    Defense: San Francisco 49ers @ Chicago Bears

    The 49ers are firmly in must-win mode having dropped to 2-4, and the foundation for a winning effort in Chicago appears more likely to be laid by the defense.

    San Francisco forced a pair of turnovers in the Week 7 loss to the Colts and the Niners' chances of adding to their takeaway tally seem strong with Chicago's rookie quarterback Justin Fields having thrown at least one interception in four of his seven appearances.

    Fields committed five turnovers in Chicago's blowout loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last time out and a 49ers' front led by one of the NFL's premier pass rushers in Nick Bosa should be confident of forcing him into more.

  • T20 World Cup: England complete dominant victory against Bangladesh T20 World Cup: England complete dominant victory against Bangladesh

    England romped to another impressive win at the T20 World Cup as they beat Bangladesh by eight wickets at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

    Jason Roy starred as he plundered 61 from 38 balls, helping his team ease to the 125-run target set by their opponents for victory with almost six overs remaining.

    Bangladesh won the toss and chose to bat first. They got off to a promising start, putting 10 runs on the board in the first over, with Liton Das hitting Moeen Ali for two boundaries.

    However, things soon turned as Moeen (2-18) took two wickets in two balls in the third over, and from there the runs dried up as the wickets steadily fell.

    Chris Woakes (1-12) and Liam Livingstone (2-15) impressed with the ball, and the only moment that resembled a fightback from Bangladesh was in the 19th over when Adil Rashid (0-35) was hit for 17, including the only two sixes of the innings from Nasum Ahmed (19).

    A solid final over with the ball from Tymal Mills (3-27) saw just four runs scored, with two wickets coming in the final two balls of the innings to leave Bangladesh on 124-9 from their 20 overs, a total England comfortably reached.

    Roy sets tone for England reply

    Roy smashed the first ball of the innings for four and Jos Buttler hit 18 from 18 balls before falling to Nasum (1-26).

    Dawid Malan (28 not out) continued the England momentum but it was five fours and three sixes from Roy in exactly an hour at the crease which did most of the heavy lifting for England.

    The opener was out before the end when he hit a Shoriful Islam (1-26) ball into the hands of Nasum, allowing Jonny Bairstow (eight not out) to see his team home with 35 balls still remaining, giving Eoin Morgan's side their second win in as many games in the tournament.

    Moeen makes swift progress

    Bangladesh had not had a display of Roy's ilk in their own top order thanks to the exploits of Moeen with the ball. Quickly recovering from a potentially damaging first over, the spinner mopped up Das and Mohammad Naim from consecutive balls to reduce Bangladesh to 14-2.

    Those were Moeen's third and fourth power play wickets at this World Cup, only trailing Maheesh Theekshana (five) in that regard. Despite the initial wobble, he has also managed an economy rate of 5.5 and a dot ball rate of 64 per cent in this period.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.