Atlético Madrid Femenino are once again a prime contender for the Liga Iberdrola crown — with 10 games played, they sit second, three points adrift of leaders Barcelona. The Catalans seem to be one of the teams to beat not only in Spain but also in Europe this season, a major sign of growth in Spanish women’s football.
It has not been all smooth sailing for Atlético as in previous years. Coach Sánchez Vera, one of the masterminds behind Atleti’s revival, stepped down in October after leading the team to its first Spanish title and cup final berth. In addition, he steered the capital club toward the last 16 of the Women’s Champions League.
His replacement is 45-year-old Pablo Lopez Salgado. Lopez’s previous stops included Alcala, Internacional de Madrid and Rayo Majadahonda in the second and third tiers of the men’s game.
The domestic race
Atlético slipped three points behind Barcelona after being denied by Real Betis. A hard-fought 2-2 draw saw Atleti come from behind twice thanks to goals from Ángela Sosa and Ludmila after Martina Piemonte and former Colchonero Priscila Borja scored for the Sevilla-based side.
Previously, Atleti had been on a six-game winning streak, which included victories against Madrid (1-0), Real Sociedad (4-1) and Espanyol (3-0). Their only defeat came at the hands of Barcelona — the Catalans eased to a 6-1 win.
One of the key upcoming dates is Dec. 22 — a home fixture against Tacón (the new Real Madrid).
The European challenge
Atlético have taken another big step into becoming one of Europe’s elite. They dispatched of Serbian champions Spartak Subotica and Women’s Super League runners-up Manchester City to clinch their first quarter-final berth in the Women’s Champions League.
Atlético found it more difficult than expected against Spartak — they needed to grind out a 4-3 aggregate win, thanks to a dramatic 3-2 win in Serbia. It was a much-improved side which saw off Manchester City via a famous 2-1 win on home soil after it held the Citizens to a 1-1 draw in England.
Atlético now will face Barcelona in the competition’s first all-Spanish tie. Those games will be played on 24/25 March and 1/2 April.
National team duties
The Spain national team opened its Women’s Euro 2021 qualifications with two wins and a draw in Group D. Seven points in three games so far have the Red Fury eyeing a place in England 2021.
Jorge Vilda’s ladies opened their campaign with a 4-0 rout of Azerbaijan at La Coruña’s Estadio Abanca-Riazor. Atlético’s midfield stalwart Amanda Sampedro was among the starters, but she did not feature in the second win, a 5-1 triumph over the Czech Republic.
Sampedro was not involved in the goalless stalemate against Poland either, but Sosa came off the bench in the final stages.
On Nov. 16 and Nov. 17, Spanish players held their first-ever strike in the women’s game. It came after a lengthy dispute between majority of the players and the Spanish Football Federation.
In a nutshell — the players want the governing body to set up a minimum salary contract to cover players who have a part-time status and contracts for players who are deemed to be ’75%’ professional. However, they could not come to a compromise with the Spanish FA the players’ demands have been deemed “impossible.”
The players returned to the fields the following week and both parties are still in discussions, with a deadline for a final decision set for Dec. 20. Until then, the eyes of world football will be set on these discussions — they will shape coming generations of the women’s game.