The week beginning Oct. 28 was not a good one for Atlético Madrid.
When I appeared on Colchonero Chat with Jeremy Beren last month, I warned about the difficult run of fixtures where Atlético would play three consecutive away games over that week. That’s not easy for any team but it was set up to be especially difficult for Diego Simeone’s side, as they’ve struggled away from the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano in recent times.
By drawing 1-1 away at both Alavés and Sevilla in LaLiga and then losing 2-1 in Leverkusen in the Champions League, Los Rojiblancos’ hopes of silverware took a huge hit after two 1-1 draws at Alavés and Sevilla, followed by a 2-1 loss at Bayer Leverkusen. There has been no “knockout blow,” but the scorecard has been marked in a significant and negative way.
None of these fixtures was supposed to be easy. Alavés are a tough nut to crack at Estadio Mendizorroza are a tough nut to crack. Sevilla are always strong at the Sanchez-Pizjuan. And no away game in Europe is easy, especially not at Bayer Leverkusen — just ask Saúl’s kidneys. Yet fans will be disappointed that a team hoping to challenge on all fronts couldn’t pick three points in at least one of these games.
Simeone will hope in the future that his team doesn’t have to suffer a week of three away matches in a row again. But that very prospect is on the horizon.
Given that Atlético are now likely to finish second in their Champions League group — as they’ll probably still beat out Bayer Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow, while it’d be difficult to overtake Juventus into top spot — this means they’ll likely be on the road for the second leg of the last 16 matches in March. This is set to create another stretch of three difficult away games in a row.
On the weekend of March 15, Atlético travel to Bilbao to take on Athletic Club Bilbao, a fixture in which they lost 2-0 and were thoroughly outplayed last season . The following weekend, they go away to Osasuna’s El Sadar, where the newly promoted side have currently not lost in 31 home league matches. That run might no longer be standing by the time Atleti visit, but I wouldn’t put any money on it.
Sandwiched in between those fixtures on the Tuesday or Wednesday night could be Los Colchoneros’ Champions League last 16 second leg. If it’s not then, then it would be the week before and would still produce three straight away fixtures. The only difference would be whether it’s three away games in a week and a half, or three away games in one week. This promises to be a very tough stretch of the schedule for the team — when Atleti fans are gifted their 2020 calendars at Christmas time, this daunting week will be marked in the darkest of red.
Atlético have already shown us they couldn’t cope with three away games in a row, looking increasingly tired as that tour went on. The worrying thing is that they’ll likely have another one in March.