After the disappointment of the midweek Champions League defeat against Chelsea, Atlético Madrid return to action on Saturday looking to keep up their impressive league form. Up next is the short trip to CD Leganés, and the newest Madrid derby in the Liga Santander calendar.
The recent rise of Leganés has been remarkable. Since being founded in 1928, Los Pepineros had risen above the third tier of Spanish football for only two spells, and by the 2013/14 season had spent a decade hovering in Segunda B. Promotion to the segunda was secured through the playoffs that year, but their stay in the second wrung was to be a brief one. The 2015/16 season saw another promotion, a second-place finish ensuring Leganés would finally compete at the highest level.
Top-flight status was retained with a hard-earned 17th place finish in last season’s Liga, and this campaign has gotten off to a great start. Victories over Alaves, Espanyol and Las Palmas see Leganés sit in 7th position, only four points behind Atleti. Disappointment came in the form of defeat to Getafe in the first ever top-flight South Madrid derby, but the start has still exceeded all expectations.
Atleti last made the short trip to Estadio Municipal de Butarque early on in the 2016/17 season, with Leganes surprising Los Rojiblancos and taking a point in a 0-0 draw. Atleti won the reverse 2-0 at the Calderon in February, but won’t underestimate a team who are, quite literally, the best they’ve ever been.
One to watch
A slight break from the norm here; instead of an outstanding player, Leganes’ one to watch is manager Asier Garitano. Only in his seventh full-season as a manager, his current side’s rapid ascent to La Liga coincided with his appointment. Garitano masterminded the two promotions and kept his side in La Liga despite a shoestring budget.
LaLiga is a tough proving ground for managers, but Garitano is making a name for himself and it would be no surprise to see him linked to high-profile jobs as the season goes on.
The history between Atlético and Leganés might be brief but with the team from the suburbs improving under Garitano, this might become a derby to watch in the very near future.