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What’s next for Atleti?

Well, that was terrible. After a sobering defeat to city rivals Real Madrid, optimism is hard to come by.

Club Atletico de Madrid v FC Rostov - UEFA Champions League Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

To say the very least, losing 3-0 at home to Real Madrid was excruciating, and the feeling seems to be that La Liga triumph has gone for Atlético Madrid, even at this early stage. And in a league where the two most obvious title contenders rarely drop points, Atleti will need to be something close to perfect for the rest of the year to have a chance.

After the horrendous loss to Real Madrid in the last La Liga Derbi at the Calderon, Atlético sit sixth in the table on 21 points, five off Barcelona and nine off Real. In a season where there was more expectation on Atleti to push for the title, it has suddenly slipped from their grasp in a matter of weeks.

Though it certainly isn’t impossible for Atleti to win La Liga at this point, it will not be easy. Real inevitably will hit poor form, as all teams do, it just depends how bad it gets for them, as well as Barcelona. In 2014/15 Real Madrid looked unstoppable under Carlo Ancelotti until Atleti smashed them 4-0, they never recovered and Carlo got sacked.

Will such a crazy turn of events happen? Probably not, but there is more parity in La Liga than in previous years, though there is still a clear gap between the best teams and everyone else. The hope, and it is just hope at this point, would be that this defeat to Atleti’s city rivals serves as a kick up the behind to both the players and manager to resolve the team’s imbalance.

While concentration on the Champions League is most likely the best avenue for success and silverware this season, it is nowhere near as straightforward as a league campaign is. Time and time again the Champions League proves to be a cruel competition that exacts painful revenge upon those involved. Flukey wins and losses are frequent, and being the best team over two legs can often not be enough.

For the faint of heart Atlético Madrid fans, pinning your hopes on CL glory should be tapered to prevent any major health issues. Looks no further than last year’s 8-7 penalty shootout win over PSV as an example of the craziness the Champions League can throw out.

The last team to reach the Champions League final two years in a row was Bayern Munich in 2011/12 and 2012/13, and they lost and won those finals, respectively. Should Atleti repeat this feat, they will certainly be hoping for similar results.

After Bayern’s shock defeat to FC Rostov, Atlético are guaranteed top spot in the Champions League group. While they could still draw a difficult opponent, it is certainly the better position to be in and the game in Munich can now be used for rotation, rather than the must-win it was previously.