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When Atlético’s backs are against the wall — they respond

Los Rojiblancos have remained competitive even without several starters, and should never be ruled out.

ESP: Valencia CF v Atletico Madrid - La Liga Photo by Pressinphoto/Icon Sport via Getty Images

Atlético Madrid’s 1-0 win over Granada last weekend was far from a classic. Nobody will remember it seven years from now. Even seven days later, it’s gone a little foggy. But that game did teach an important lesson, and that’s the fact that Atlético will always display courage and resilience when their backs are against the wall.

For that game against Granada, Los Rojiblancos were missing seven of their starters. They were without starting right-back Kieran Trippier, and even backup right-back Santiago Arias. They were without starting centre-backs Felipe and José María Giménez. They were without starting midfielder Héctor Herrera. And they were without starting attackers João Félix, Álvaro Morata and Diego Costa.

For most teams, that would have been enough to sink the entire ship. But not for Diego Simeone’s men. Even if it was only Granada and even if Granada played a slightly-weakened XI ahead of their Copa del Rey semi-final, this was a tough game and one which ended in three home points.

Injuries have made this a difficult season for Atlético — just like they did last year — and they’ve logically had an impact on results. Such a loss in quality is impossible to overcome game after game, especially when it comes to making things happen in the final third.

Yet at no point have Atleti stopped competing. The mattress makers were pegged back twice at Valencia on Friday, but secured a draw which keeps them just two points behind third-place Getafe. Even looking at the eight matches they’ve lost this season, five were by one solitary goal, one was on a penalty shootout and the other two were by two-goal margins. They’ve never been completely out of a game. They’ve never given up.

This is important and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Even though Simeone sides have always given their all, it would have been all too easy for players to feel deflated and unmotivated this season, a year in which no domestic title will be won and in which Los Colchoneros will have to defeat the English champions-in-waiting Liverpool to have any hope of collecting silverware.

That’s why Atlético shouldn’t be ruled out in their upcoming Champions League tie. Los Rojiblancos recovered Santiago Arias and Álvaro Morata in the 2-2 draw at Valencia, and José Giménez made the matchday squad. Perhaps one or two absent forwards could be available in midweek. But even if not, even if Atleti approach this game with all the odds stacked in Liverpool’s favour, one thing is certain — and that’s that this side will compete.

When Atleti have to respond, respond they do.