Atletico Madrid did not speak with Lionel Messi about the possibility of reuniting him with Luis Suarez at the club, according to coach Diego Simeone.

After Barca's financial difficulties forced a tearful Messi to announce his exit from the club last week, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner signed a two-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain on Monday.

Messi is now poised to form a frightening front three with former Barcelona team-mate Neymar and France star Kylian Mbappe.

There had been talk of him linking up with the other former member of Barca's fabled MSN forward line and signing for LaLiga champions Atletico.

But Simeone denied there had been any communication between the club and the Argentina international.

Simeone told a media conference ahead of Atletico's LaLiga opener at Celta Vigo: "[Messi] is a really important departure for LaLiga and for Barcelona.

"We weren't talking with him. We didn't have the slightest chance."

On the impact of Messi's exit on LaLiga, Simeone added: "I understand that not even the Premier League has Messi or [Cristiano] Ronaldo, and it's a very competitive league.

"It will depend on the growth of all the teams to be able to make a competitive league without having either of [those players], as England have done."

Messi's departure would appear to be a significant boost to Atletico's hopes of fending off both Barca and Real Madrid once more and retaining the title.

But Simeone clearly has little interest in talk of Atletico being title favourites.

"We will not change our path, which is game by game, to understand what the league is like," he said. 

"There is no better way to compete than how we have been doing so in the last nine and a half years."

Opportunism was the name of the game for Atletico Madrid in 2020-21 and, ultimately, it led them all the way to the title.

First, they pounced on the opportunity to sign Luis Suarez, then Diego Simeone's squad enjoyed a commanding start to the season that left their rivals playing catch-up.

Lionel Messi's situation at Barcelona contributed to the Blaugrana being slow out of the blocks, and although Atletico almost contrived to throw it all away in the latter stages of the season, they proved their resilience in seeing it out.

While opportunism led to success then, this season Atletico arguably find themselves on the cusp of a new, dominant era. Barca are in an even greater mess than 12 months ago and no longer have Messi to bail them out, while Madrid's only major signing has been David Alaba – in contrast, they have lost Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane is Manchester bound too. Add Zinedine Zidane's departure to that and it is very much a picture of transition at the newly refurbed Santiago Bernabeu.

Atletico, meanwhile, have not lost any key players and have even improved their midfield options with the signing of Rodrigo De Paul. It was not so long ago that Simeone's future seemed uncertain, but the past year has brought out a new side in him and that's helped Los Colchoneros reign in Spain.

Flexible Simeone turns over a new leaf

Throughout Simeone's time in charge of Atletico, there has been a common theme – you can either call it consistency or inflexibility, but it essentially depends on whether you are a critic or a fan.

However, it is difficult to say he was inflexible last season by any stretch of the imagination. Now, whether that was decisive in their title triumph is impossible to say, yet it does show Simeone is perhaps not the one-trick pony some insist he is.

For much of his decade at the helm, Simeone has almost religiously set his teams up in a rigid 4-4-2 formation, or at least something not too dissimilar. A back four has been the cornerstone of his systems. According to Opta data, he only ever started a match with a back three or five six times before 2020-21.

Yet, in the championship-winning campaign, Atletico lined up with a back three or five in 23 of their 38 LaLiga matches. Simeone had amassed a group of players with wide-ranging skillsets that aided versatility, and he truly embraced that.

Yannick Carrasco's work-rate saw him turned into a wing-back; Kieran Trippier's arguably suspect defensive capabilities became less of a concern because he was stationed further up the pitch. In attack, Luis Suarez and whoever partnered him – usually Joao Felix or Angel Correa – offered unpredictable movement that often saw them push out wide to create space for Marcos Llorente to run into.

 

Of course, that didn't occur all the time, but it is notable how all 12 of Llorente's goals came from either positions in the box or central positions just outside the area despite a lot of his work coming down the right flank in tandem with Trippier.

This flexibility in the final third also seemed to contribute to their effectiveness off the ball. Their 43 shot-ending high turnovers was bettered by only Barcelona and Eibar, though that figure equated to 15.3 per cent of their total high turnovers (281).

That percentage was better than both of those teams above them in the category, suggesting Atletico were more effective at turning those situations into danger, despite their PPDA of 11.5 only being the 12th lowest in the league.

But the overriding feeling looking back at Atletico in 2020-21 was the only real ammunition Simeone's critics had – that he was inflexible – seems to have lost relevance.

 

De Paul is Simeone's ideal schemer

It was only a matter of time before De Paul sought a new home after an excellent five-year spell in Italy with Udinese. It was there that he got his career back on track after struggling to make much of an impact with Valencia during his previous attempt to succeed in Spain.

He was a regular throughout his five years in Serie A but enjoyed his finest campaign of all in 2020-21, displaying a skillset that looks an ideal fit for the requirements of a Simeone team.

Throughout Simeone's 10 years as Atletico coach, his signings of creative players have tended to be hit and miss, with it a common perception that his intense demands both in training and during matches can sometimes stifle more mercurial talents who are not used to such workloads.

But De Paul, who is comfortable playing both centrally and out wide, has shown plenty of evidence he should be up to the challenge.

 

Providing creativity is De Paul's bread and butter, with his 82 key passes in 2020-21 bettered by only Hakan Calhanoglu (98) in Serie A. Of those chances, 34 came from set-pieces, highlighting his prowess from dead-ball situations and ranking him fourth in Italy's top flight.

Only five players got more assists than his nine, but all of them massively out-performed their modest expected assists (xA) records, which ranged from 3.4 to 6.7. De Paul topped the charts for expected assists with 10.3 xA, evidence that his assists reflected the quality of his service rather than him getting lucky or benefiting from unusually good finishing by team-mates.

Yet the area that highlights a particular compatibility with Atleti is the fact he won more duels (294) than anyone else in Serie A in 2020-21.

Combine that with his league-leading completed dribbles (122) and it paints a picture of a hard-working player who also possesses the quality to get his team on the front foot.

His creativity and dribbling abilities are two facets that Atletico don't necessarily have in abundance in their central midfield options, yet he balances those with a genuine work ethic. De Paul could well be an absolute triumph of a signing.

Joao Felix's time?

Joao Felix's 2019 arrival at the Wanda Metropolitano was met by the clamouring of Simeone critics suggesting this was the signing that would finally see the renowned pragmatist cut loose and suddenly become the entertainer many hoped he could be.

It didn't work out that way. In fact, their haul of 51 LaLiga goals in 2019-20 was the lowest they had managed since scoring just 46 in 2006-07 – they somehow became even tougher to watch.

This did not do much to convince those adamant Simeone was to blame for Joao Felix's form – many people called for the young talent to be given a "free role" that allowed him to play without the shackles normally associated with the coach's disciplined system.

But for a period in 2020-21, there were real signs that Joao Felix was beginning to find his feet. While he was not necessarily roaming as some might have envisioned, his role - being more of a withdrawn forward towards the left - in the first half of last season saw him become one of LaLiga's standout players.

One theory was that Suarez's signing helped Joao Felix significantly. After all, the Uruguayan enjoyed a near-telepathic on-pitch relationship with Messi and has always boasted exceptional off-ball intelligence. He can make great players look even better.

 

For example, prior to Atletico's 1-0 win over Barca at the Wanda Metropolitano on November 21 last year, Joao Felix had already created the same amount of chances for Suarez (four) as he had for anyone else in all of 2019-20.

But it's fair to say the Portugal talent did not manage to maintain his status as a standout player for the full season. Bouts of illness, injuries and a suspension all hampered him after the turn of the year as he made just five of his 14 league starts after January 1. In fact, his final total of starts was seven fewer than in 2019-20.

Joao Felix's productivity was not as impressive as a result. He went from creating 1.5 chances per game to 0.9 and appeared far less willing to run with the ball, attempting 26 dribbles compared to 43 before January 1.

Sure, his assists count went up from two to three, though between January 1 and the end of the season his expected assists (xA) value was just 0.77, suggesting he benefited from some help from his team-mates.

Joao Felix's influence in build-up play did not change dramatically, only going down to 4.0 shot-ending sequence involvements from 4.9, which was not massively better than he managed in 2019-20 (4.64), but he lacked the sharpness to make the difference at the top end of the pitch as often.

Hopefully 2021-22 will have less upheaval for him and allow for greater consistency. With Messi gone, LaLiga needs a new headline superstar – Joao Felix has the talent, but whether Atletico and Simeone can truly harness it is another matter entirely.

Nevertheless, Atleti excelled even when Joao Felix was not hitting the heights expected. As they see Barca and Madrid appearing significantly weaker, Simeone and his players are heading into 2021-22 as the team to beat.

Atletico Madrid defender Mario Hermoso has been released from a German hospital following an episode of intestinal obstruction.

The centre-back has successfully recovered and able to return to Spain on Monday.

Hermoso was admitted to hospital on Saturday after complaining of acute abdominal pain leading up to Atletico's friendly against Wolfsburg.

But after undergoing medical tests, the Spain international was discharged  and will hope to be involved for Diego Simeone's side against Cadiz on Wednesday.

Hermoso, who arrived from Espanyol in July 2019, has made 48 league appearances for Atleti.

The 26-year-old played 31 times in LaLiga last season as the club were crowned champions, their first top-flight title since 2014.

Atletico will launch their defence away at Celta Vigo on August 15.

Diego Simeone has boosted LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid by extending his contract with the club until 2024.

The Argentine coach is approaching 10 years in charge at Atletico, having been appointed in December 2011, and in that time he has established the Rojiblanco as serious rivals to the big two in Spain and as a European force.

He has led Atletico to league titles in 2014 and this year, as well as winning a Copa del Rey and the Europa League twice.

Simeone also helped Atletico reach the Champions League final in 2014 and 2016, losing on both occasions to Real Madrid.

The 51-year-old was contracted until 2022 and it emerged earlier this year that Atletico were making moves towards prolonging his stay.

Confirmation of his new deal came on Thursday, as the club said in a statement: "Diego Pablo Simeone has signed a contract extension until June 30, 2024.

"Since the Argentine joined in 2011, we have enjoyed one of the most successful phases of our club's history – winning eight trophies in the process.

"During this period, Simeone has become the coach who has won the most titles (eight) and games (316) in our club’s history.

"The members of his coaching staff have also signed contract extensions until 2024. Oscar Ortega, Pablo Vercellone, Nelson Vivas and Hernan Bonvinvini have also played a big role in our recent success."

Atletico have qualified for the Champions League for nine consecutive seasons, a performance that has led Simeone to be rated by some as a rival to Manchester City's Pep Guardiola as the best club boss in the game.

Reports have claimed Simeone was the world's best-paid coach under the terms of his previous deal.

His well-drilled team won LaLiga last term by conceding just 25 goals in 38 games.

Diego Simeone has boosted LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid by extending his contract with the club until 2024.

Atletico Madrid will face rivals Real Madrid during what could well be a difficult run-in as Diego Simeone's side aim to defend their LaLiga title.

Atleti were crowned champions in Spain for the first time since the 2013-14 season back in May, clinching the crown on the final day with a win over Real Valladolid.

They start the new term with a trip to Celta Vigo, while headline fixtures against Barcelona and a visit across the Spanish capital to neighbouring Real Madrid come in October and December respectively.

February 6 sees Atleti scheduled to face Barca again, this time at Camp Nou, though it is a tough final stretch which catches the eye following Wednesday's schedule announcement.

May sees an away game against Athletic Bilbao followed by the second Madrid derby, this time at the Wanda Metropolitano, with a trip to Elche coming before a home clash with Sevilla.

Should Atleti's title hopes be alive heading into the final day once again, they will aim to get a positive result at Real Sociedad on May 22.

Atletico Madrid's LaLiga fixtures in full:

15/08/2021 – Celta Vigo (a)
22/08/2021 – Elche (h)
29/08/2021 – Villarreal (h)
12/09/2021 – Espanyol (a)
19/09/2021 – Athletic Bilbao (h)
22/09/2021 – Getafe (a)
26/09/2021 – Deportivo Alaves (a)
03/10/2021 – Barcelona (h)
17/10/2021 – Granada (a)
24/10/2021 – Real Sociedad (h)
27/10/2021 – Levante (a)
31/10/2021 – Real Betis (h)
07/11/2021 – Valencia (a)
21/11/2021 – Osasuna (h)
28/11/2021 – Cadiz (a)
05/12/2021 – Real Mallorca (h)
12/12/2021 – Real Madrid (a)
19/12/2021 – Sevilla (a)
02/01/2022 – Rayo Vallecano (h)
09/01/2022 – Villarreal (a)
19/01/2022 – Levante (h)
23/01/2022 – Valencia (h)
06/02/2022 – Barcelona (a)
13/02/2022 – Getafe (h)
20/02/2022 – Osasuna (a)
27/02/2022 – Celta Vigo (h)
06/03/2022 – Real Betis (a)
13/03/2022 – Cadiz (h)
20/03/2022 – Rayo Vallecano (a)
03/04/2022 – Deportivo Alaves (h)
10/04/2022 – Real Mallorca (a)
17/04/2022 – Espanyol (h)
20/04/2022 – Granada (h)
01/05/2022 – Athletic Bilbao (a)
08/05/2022 – Real Madrid (h)
11/05/2022 – Elche (a)
15/05/2022 – Sevilla (h)
22/05/2022 – Real Sociedad (a)

Atletico Madrid are champions of Spain again after holding off heavyweight pair Real Madrid and Barcelona in the closing stages to win their second LaLiga crown in eight seasons.

Atleti beat Real Valladolid 2-1 on Saturday to finish two points above Madrid – the only side that could catch them heading into the final round of games after Barca lost ground.

Diego Simeone's men moved into top spot with a 4-0 win over Cadiz on November 7 and, despite some inconsistency over the past two months, they have stayed there ever since.

With the help of Opta, we took a look at the numbers behind Los Colchoneros' latest triumph.

ATLETI BREAK MADRID-BARCA STRONGHOLD

Atleti have now been crowned champions of Spain 11 times – three of those in the last 43 years – which is third only to perennial winners Real Madrid (34 titles) and Barcelona (26).

Athletic Bilbao are next on the list with eight titles to their name, while Valencia have come out on top on six occasions.

Indeed, Simeone's charges are the only side other than Madrid or Barca to finish at the summit of Spain's top flight in the past 16 years, doing so this season and in 2013-14.

Atletico have now claimed the title in at least one season in eight of the last 10 decades – only in the 1920s and 1980s did they fail to do so.

DESERVED TITLE WINNERS

Atletico have spent 30 matchdays on top of the table, despite only stringing together successive wins on a couple of occasions since the end of January.

They won 26, drew eight and lost four of their 38 matches to end the season with 86 points – their longest winning run being the eight strung together between December 19 and January 31.

It is the 10th time Atleti's fate has gone down to the final day of the season, most dramatically of all in 2014 when drawing away at Barca to hold off their title rivals.

That season, incidentally, Simeone's side spent 11 matchdays alone at the top of the table.

THE CHANGING FACE OF ATELTICO

Another interesting aspect of Atletico's title success is that this is the first season they have averaged more than 50 per cent possession in the league under Simeone.

They have averaged 52.02 per cent possession in LaLiga in 2020-21, which compares to 48.75 per cent in the season they last finished top, and is an increase on the 47.86 per cent they managed last season when finishing 17 points off top spot.

Increased possession has led to a better balance, too, with Atletico scoring 67 goals this season, which is the joint-third most they have mustered in Simeone's nine seasons at the helm, alongside 2014-15 and behind 2013-14 (77) and 2016-17 (70).

The 25 goals they have conceded, meanwhile, is their fourth-best return over that time, their best season in that regard being the 18 goals shipped in 2015-16.

OBLAK, SUAREZ AND LLORENTE KEY TO SUCCESS

As Simeone has himself repeatedly pointed out, this has once again been a collective effort from Atletico.

However, there is no doubt that this latest title triumph would not have been possible if not for certain individuals – none more so than Luis Suarez, who joined from Barcelona at the start of the season for a small fee.

The Uruguay international scored comeback-clinching goals for Atletico in their final two games of the season and won 21 points for his side in total – more than any other player in the division – with his 21 goals.

Indeed, only Radamel Falcao in 2011-12 (24 goals) and Antoine Griezmann in 2014-15 (22) have scored more goals in their first season at the club in the 21st century.

At the opposite end, goalkeeper Jan Oblak made 103 saves from the 125 shots faced in LaLiga this season – an 80 per cent save rate, the best percentage of any keeper in Europe's top five leagues among those to have played at least three times.

Marcos Llorente is another deserving of special recognition, having played a direct part in 23 LaLiga goals – 12 of his own and a further 11 assists – a tally that is bettered by just Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes (30) among midfielders in Europe's top leagues.

His 12 goals came from an expected goals (xG) return of 3.4 – a difference of 8.6 – which is the biggest differential between xG and actual goals of any player in the big five leagues bar Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (41 goals from an xG of 32.3).

 

Diego Simeone says Atletico Madrid's latest LaLiga title success feels particularly special in a year complicated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Atleti beat Real Valladolid 2-1 at Estadio Jose Zorrilla on Saturday to finish two points above Real Madrid, who themselves completed a turnaround by the same scoreline against Villarreal.

It is Atleti's 11th title and their second in nine years under Simeone, on top of winning two Europa Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups, the Copa del Rey and Supercopa de Espana.

That sees Simeone overtake Luis Aragones (seven trophies) as the Spanish side's most successful ever coach.

Atleti were top for 30 matchdays and, despite being given a scare by Madrid and Barcelona in the closing weeks, Simeone feels his side are deserving champions in what has been a tough year for everyone off the field.

"It has been a complicated year," Simeone told Movistar+. "It's one of the best years to be champions. I'm happy for a lot of people. 

"Many people have been lost to the virus. For Atletico to be champions is a different feeling.

"The two league titles we have won come with different feelings. The world is experiencing a bad situation and I hope that we have given a lot of people some joy.

"Spending as long as we did on top is huge. I'm grateful, especially to those who played less than others. We stuck to our goals throughout."

Long-serving boss Simeone, who has also guided Atleti to a couple of Champions League finals, hinted earlier this season he may soon seek a new challenge.

The 51-year-old accepts that his training methods can take their toll on players but can see a bright future for Atleti going forward as he hinted at a longer stay.

"I've no doubts that people can get tired, but I'm very hard-headed," he said. "I knew and know that this club can keep growing and I hope it will continue like this.

"The club have done incredible work. Miguel [Angel Gil Marin], Enrique [Cerezo] and all of the unseen people have given us stability beyond results. They've always wanted this.

"They're not here celebrating, but soon we'll all embrace."

Oscar Plano gave relegated Valladolid a shock half-time lead against Atletico, but Angel Correa's stunning solo effort – the Argentine's 20th direct goal involvement for Atleti across all competitions in 2020-21 – equalised before Suarez's winner.

Suarez's 21 top-flight goals have been worth 21 points to Atleti this season, more than any other LaLiga player, and Simeone was quick to praise both of his forwards, who have kept big-money signing Joao Felix out of the side during the run-in.

"I've been saying that Angel has needed a goal for a long time," Simeone said. "It makes me happy that he's been called up by the [Argentina] national team.

"As for Suarez, I said before that his surname speaks for itself!"

We should have known Diego Simeone would do it differently.

The customary celebrations were all there: the cheers, the hugs, the hoisting of the coach high into the air by jubilant, exhausted players.

Yet the most poignant moment of Saturday's post-match scenes at the Jose Zorrilla, where Atletico Madrid became LaLiga champions for the 11th time, was one of quiet reflection. Simeone, wiping his eyes, went to console dejected Real Valladolid players whose relegation was confirmed by that 2-1 defeat. His own emotions running their highest, he was still attuned to theirs.

Simeone has always seemed fuelled by the raw emotive power of a football match, more than any other coach among Europe's elite clubs. When he reels off platitudes in dour pre-game press talks, it's like he's frightened of wasting an ounce of energy; once the whistle sounds, he explodes into a 90-minute sideline supernova, frantic, impassioned, inspirational.

It was like that this season perhaps more than any other. This was his second league title with Atleti and eighth trophy – a record among those to have coached the club – in 10 years overall, but it feels like this one belongs to him most of all. This was the crowning of true Cholismo champions: a triumph built on the power of belief.

Atleti have defied expectations at almost every turn in 2020-21. Even on the final day, when they just needed a win against a team they had beaten 10 times in 11 games, it almost slipped away.

Oscar Plano, a former Real Madrid player, opened the scoring to give his old club hope only for Villarreal to take the lead in the capital, where Madrid knew only a victory would be enough to defend their crown. Angel Correa's dancing feet and inspired toe-poke levelled the scores with just Atleti's second shot on target of the match; nearly 200 kilometres away, Karim Benzema saw an equaliser disallowed by VAR. When Luis Suarez swept home his 21st goal of the season from the best throughball of the contest – an errant hoof by Valladolid substitute Michel – it felt like fate was overplaying her hand.

So it has been throughout nine months of hectic schedules and empty stadia. Exhausted Atleti players missed the succour of roaring fans like the rest, but the difference was their firebrand coach. Simeone demands the utmost, but he gives his players the conviction that they can deliver it, no matter what the outside world expects. It's brutal, unquenchable defiance. It's Cholismo.

Atletico have outperformed expectations so much this season they almost had little right to be champions. They have scored 67 goals from just 53.07 expected goals (xG) in LaLiga and conceded 25 from expected goals against (xGA) of 37.8. Add those differentials together and you get 26.73, the highest such figure in Europe's top-five leagues, and nearly 27 reasons why they should not have finished top.

Suarez, cast out of Barcelona as an expensive has-been, has outscored his xG by 4.85, a bigger number than in his final three seasons at Camp Nou. His 21 goals have delivered as many points, more than any other player in the competition.

Marcos Llorente, a defensive midfielder warming the Madrid bench before his move two years ago, is the first Atletico player to reach double figures for goals and assists in a single season since Diego Forlan in 2008-09. The only other 'double-double' in all of LaLiga this season was achieved by Celta Vigo forward Iago Aspas.

On February 1, Stats Perform AI gave Atleti a 79.9 per cent chance of winning the title thanks to their 10-point lead, yet they managed to allow the race to come down to the final day – and still win it by a whisker after falling behind.

That's what Simeone gives you. In a modern game supposed to be won by controlled variables and tiny percentages, Atleti just reminded us all what a little faith can do.

Luis Suarez will be forever grateful to Atletico Madrid for giving him a chance to lead a title charge following his departure from Barcelona.

Suarez had been a star at Barca since his arrival from Liverpool in 2014, yet his six-year spell at Camp Nou came to an abrupt end when he was deemed surplus to requirements by the club.

Lionel Messi was unhappy with the decision, which has proved even more bizarre given Barca's troubles, with Suarez ultimately proving decisive in the title race.

Atleti clinched their 11th LaLiga crown thanks to his goal on Saturday, which sealed a 2-1 comeback win over Real Valladolid, meaning Real Madrid's late turnaround against Villarreal was irrelevant.

Suarez's 21 top-flight goals have been worth 22 points to Atleti this season – more than any other LaLiga player.

And, in an emotional interview with Movistar, Suarez explained his debt to Atleti.

"The situation I experienced last summer was difficult, the way I was underestimated," the 34-year-old said.

"Barca didn't value me and Atletico opened their doors for me to keep on showing the player I am. I will always be grateful to this club for trusting in me."

Atleti had won four of their previous five LaLiga away games against Valladolid heading into Saturday's showdown, but their opponents – who were relegated as a result of their eventual defeat – went ahead in the 18th minute through Oscar Plano's breakaway goal.

Yet Angel Correa's stunning solo effort – his 20th direct goal involvement for Atleti across all competitions in 2020-21 – restored parity, before Suarez pounced on a Michel error to complete the turnaround.

It marks Simeone's eighth trophy win with Atleti, and his second LaLiga title. He is only the third coach to lead the club to two league crowns, while no other manager has accumulated such a silverware haul with Los Colchoneros.

Another key figure in the title charge has been Marcos Llorente, who finishes the campaign with 13 goals and 12 assists across all competitions.

"We're knackered," he added. "It's been a really tight season with a lot of games. It's been tough physically, but in the end we've got this crucial win and we've managed to win the title. The togetherness we have has been crucial to achieving this.

"We felt the nerves a bit today given it was such a key game, but we just wanted to win so as not to have to think about the result of the other game. At the break we managed to calm ourselves down and we went out there and turned the match around."

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.

Atletico Madrid have won LaLiga for the 11th time in their history.

Diego Simeone's side beat Real Valladolid 2-1 on Saturday to clinch their first top-flight crown since 2013-14 and just their third in 25 years.

Previous champions Real Madrid, who fought back to beat Villarreal by the same scoreline in their final match of 2020-21, finished second in the table, with Barcelona securing third by beating relegated Eibar and Sevilla – who play on Sunday – set to end the season fourth.

Atleti are the only team to have won Spain's top league other than Madrid or Barca since Valencia claimed their sixth title in 2003-04.

Simeone is just the third coach to win two LaLiga titles for the club, following Ricardo Zamora (1939-40 and 1940-41) and Helenio Herrera (1949-50 and 1950-51).

The result also meant Valladolid were relegated to the second tier.

It is the fifth LaLiga title in the career of striker Luis Suarez, who finished as Atleti's top scorer this season with 21 goals in 32 league games.

The 34-year-old only joined Atleti last year after being deemed surplus to requirements at Barca.

Former Madrid midfielder Marcos Llorente was also key to Atleti's title triumph. With 12 goals and 11 assists, he is the first Atletico player since Diego Forlan (32 goals, 10 assists) in 2008-09 to record a 'double-double' of at least 10 goals and assists in the same season.

Llorente has epitomised the way Atleti have performed beyond expectations this season. His 12 goals have come from just 3.41 expected goals (xG), and his 11 assists from 5.38 expected assists (xA). The difference in each of those figures is the highest among LaLiga players in 2020-21.

Atletico Madrid have won LaLiga for the 11th time in their history.

Diego Simeone's side beat Real Valladolid 2-1 on Saturday to clinch their first top-flight crown since 2013-14 and just their third in 25 years.

Previous champions Real Madrid, who fought back to beat Villarreal by the same scoreline in their final match of 2020-21, finished second in the table, with Barcelona securing third by beating relegated Eibar and Sevilla – who play on Sunday – set to end the season fourth.

Atleti are the only team to have won Spain's top league other than Madrid or Barca since Valencia claimed their sixth title in 2003-04.

Simeone is just the third coach to win two LaLiga titles for the club, following Ricardo Zamora (1939-40 and 1940-41) and Helenio Herrera (1949-50 and 1950-51).

The result also meant Valladolid were relegated to the second tier.

It is the fifth LaLiga title in the career of striker Luis Suarez, who finished as Atleti's top scorer this season with 21 goals in 32 league games.

The 34-year-old only joined Atleti last year after being deemed surplus to requirements at Barca.

Former Madrid midfielder Marcos Llorente was also key to Atleti's title triumph. With 12 goals and 11 assists, he is the first Atletico player since Diego Forlan (32 goals, 10 assists) in 2008-09 to record a 'double-double' of at least 10 goals and assists in the same season.

Llorente has epitomised the way Atleti have performed beyond expectations this season. His 12 goals have come from just 3.41 expected goals (xG), and his 11 assists from 5.38 expected assists (xA). The difference in each of those figures is the highest among LaLiga players in 2020-21.

Atletico Madrid claimed their 11th LaLiga title as Angel Correa and Luis Suarez inspired a 2-1 comeback victory over Real Valladolid on a tense final day of 2020-21.

With second-placed Real Madrid facing Villarreal, Diego Simeone's men needed a win to guarantee the title, but their hopes hung in the balance when Oscar Plana put relegation-battling Valladolid ahead.

But Correa's superb solo effort restored parity, with a glaring miss from Shon Weissman at the other end setting the stage for Suarez to complete the turnaround.

Madrid produced a late turnaround to win 2-1 but finished two points behind their city rivals in the table.

The pressure on Atleti's shoulders was reflected in a frantic start from the league leaders, with Suarez and Saul Niguez snatching at efforts before Valladolid struck.

In the 18th minute, a breakdown in Atleti's attack resulted in Marcos de Sousa feeding Plano who, after just keeping himself ahead of a glut of chasing defenders, slotted coolly beyond Jan Oblak.

Jawad El Yamiq nearly handed Atleti a reprieve with what would have been a calamitous own goal, and with Weissman having squandered a chance to double Valladolid's lead, Suarez went close after the restart, only for Saidy Janko to clear the Uruguayan's goal-bound header.

Yet the pressure finally told in the 57th minute.

It looked like the chance to shoot had gone when Correa took a heavy touch, yet nifty footwork created space between four defenders and the Argentine prodded a brilliant finish low into the right-hand corner.

Valladolid seemed all set to restore their lead just after the hour, only for Weissman to again miss a golden opportunity, heading over a gaping goal after Oblak had parried Lucas Olaza's strike.

Atleti made Valladolid pay, Suarez pouncing on Michel's sloppy pass to race clear and curl home the decisive blow, clinching Simeone's second LaLiga crown and condemning the hosts to the second tier.

Diego Simeone expects Atletico Madrid and Real Valladolid to "give their lives" in a decisive final match in the LaLiga season.

Atleti head into Saturday's contest with a two-point lead over city rivals Real Madrid at the top of the table.

They know that a victory will guarantee their first top-flight title since 2013-14, when a 1-1 draw at Barcelona on the final day denied the Catalans the trophy.

However, the stakes are also high for Valladolid, who must win to stand a chance of avoiding relegation to the second tier.

History is on Atleti's side: Valladolid have not won any of their past 11 league meetings and failed to score in seven of the previous eight, while Sergio Gonzalez has gone eight LaLiga games without defeating Simeone, more than he has against any other head coach.

Simeone could become only the third Atletico coach to deliver two top-flight titles after Ricardo Zamora (1940 and 1941) and Helenio Herrera (1950 and 1951), so he could be forgiven for feeling the pressure.

However, the former midfielder says preparation for this weekend has been no different from the rest of the season.

"We've worked like every other week," he said on Friday. "We're concerned about the game against Valladolid, against an opponent who have their own needs and who will look to play a game like always.

"We understand that anything is possible in a game, and it's evident Valladolid's needs are different to ours, but they're the same in terms of being important objectives.

"We've always tried to be immersed in deciding our game, which is the only thing that concerns us and the only thing that depends on us.

"All the teams have gone through different situations to get here. We're two fighting for the league, three against relegation and three for the Europa League. That's the Spanish league: game by game, you have to put in your utmost, hoping for the best in the end.

"It's a final. Two teams are fighting for different goals and each will give their lives for that goal."

Simeone would not offer any clues as to his starting line-up but did confirm there are some players facing late fitness tests.

"First, let's see how two or three players under observation are doing and if they can start and, from there, tomorrow morning, we'll decide the plan," he added.

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