It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish that matters in football. And though that phrase would have done little to comfort those associated with Atleti after their poor start to the season, the quick turnaround in September has eased worried minds. Convincing and comfortable wins versus Sporting Gijon & Celta Vigo, coupled with those ‘ugly’ 1-0 wins, that Atletico are so used to, against Deportivo and PSV has brought with them a more optimistic feeling of the season ahead.
The renewed hope of success for the current campaign can only boost the team’s chances of gaining a positive result against Bayern on Wednesday. The German champions will no doubt be keen to avenge their semi-final loss from the previous year, and a win in Madrid would go a long way to healing those wounds. Both sides realise the importance of finishing first in the group with the modern format of the Champions League group stage. Entering into the second round unseeded can lead to a nightmare match-up for either team.
For Atletico, the pressure is on in midweek to keep up the recent form that has seen them pick up some much needed confidence. Perhaps, the most significant result in the past month came in the 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou. Fans and media alike are calling for a more attacking Atleti, something which the club seem to agree with. The signings of Nico Gaitan and Kevin Gameiro were a sign of that, but the draw against Barcelona proved that the blueprint for success still relies on Atletico’s strong defensive abilities.
Against Bayern, Diego Simeone’s side will need to rely on that same mentality if they wish to pick up at least a draw in the crucial encounter. Diego Godin was a rock at the back versus the magical trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar with Stefan Savic complimenting him nicely once again. Savic’s inclusion has disappointed most due to the fact his presence automatically means Jose Gimenez’ absence but there’s no doubting the 25-year-old has performed well enough to be included in the starting eleven. Cholo loves to trust his players and it’s clear that at this moment in time, Savic is leaps and bounds ahead of Gimenez in that department.
It may be due to the Barcelona game being so fresh in the memory, but Atletico’s defensive performance was admirable and is arguably one of the best under Simeone. Never have Messi, Suarez and Neymar looked so comfortably dealt with. Even when either of the three wonderful footballers gained possession, the lack of fear or doubt in Atleti’s minds were obvious. They believed in their own game plan to nullify the constant threat that the opposition threw at them. The biggest impact ‘MSN’ had on the game was when Messi was forced off with an injury shortly before Angel Correa’s equaliser. That their performance was hardly mentioned in the aftermath is an achievement in itself for los Colchoneros.
The fixture on Wednesday at the Calderon promises to be an exciting affair. The fans will create a daunting atmosphere which can rival any across Europe while Bayern will be anticipating such a rowdy welcome. Atletico have shown in the past they can not only match the best the continent’s premier competition has to offer, but they can also better them. They’ve certainly put the disappointing August to the back of their minds with a much-improved September. A win over Munich would be a fitting way to end a satisfying month.