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Atlético Madrid’s Catalan curse

Atleti have taken less than a point per game against Catalan opposition over the past two seasons, and that run continued in matchday 36.

RCD Espanyol v Club Atletico de Madrid - La Liga Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

There is nothing scarier for Atlético Madrid than a trip to Catalonia. Not because they’re afraid of bread covered in tomato, of pooping Christmas figurines or of human towers, but because los Colchoneros have a lousy record against the Catalan sides.

The 3-0 defeat against Espanyol on Saturday was just the latest example and was the third defeat in the past four matches against los Pericos. The record is just as bad, if not worse, when it comes to Girona and Barcelona.

In the past two seasons, since Girona were promoted to LaLiga, Atlético have taken just 11 points out of a possible 36 against the top division’s three Catalan teams. There have been three draws and a win against Girona, two draws and two defeats against Barcelona and one win and three defeats against Espanyol.

Their record against Catalan clubs over the past two seasons is 0.92 points per game, while their record against all other LaLiga teams is 2.29 points per game. It’s a staggering difference.

While it’s easier said than done, had Atleti taken maximum points against their Catalan opponents in the past two seasons then they’d have won the league title last season by five points and would be five points ahead of Barça right now in the current campaign.

It’s understandable that they’ve not taken as many points as they’d have liked against Barcelona since they have an alien wearing their No.10 shirt — although Diego Simeone would still have hoped for a better return than one point out of six last season and the same return this campaign.

The real problem when it comes to los Rojiblancos’ Catalan results has been their failure to defeat Espanyol and Girona. They were even knocked out of this season’s Copa del Rey by Girona, losing on away goals after drawing 4-4 on aggregate in their last 16 tie.

There’s no logical explanation for the struggles against Catalan sides. While some may consider it normal for Atlético to lose to a team with Barcelona’s resources, the fact they’ve consistently been able to take points off Real Madrid over the past few seasons shows that there is something specific to the Blaugrana that gets under Atleti’s collective skin. As for Espanyol and Girona, both those teams have had different coaches and different styles in 2018/19 compared to 2017/18, yet they’ve still proven to be bogey teams for the capital city club.

Apart from victories against lower league sides Lleida and Sant Andreu in the early rounds of the Copa del Rey, Atlético’s record against Catalan teams has been absolutely dreadful. So what can be done about it?

Well, Girona may get relegated this season and may not be a stone in Atleti’s shoe for much longer. But Barcelona and Espanyol will be sticking around. They’ll both face the mattress makers next season, and those fixtures will be daunting ones for the Spanish capital’s red and white half.