There was genuine suspense when the coronavirus shut down the 2019/20 season and left Atlético Madrid sitting in sixth place, peering up the table as Sevilla and Real Sociedad occupied the final two Champions League places and as Getafe also led Atlético in fifth. We didn’t know if the season would be completed. We didn’t know how Los Colchoneros would fare if the campaign did restart. There was a real possibility of Europa League football returning to the Wanda Metropolitano for 2020/21.
It was quite a cliffhanger, but in May we were told that we would get a sequel. Diego Simeone’s empire was to strike back, with the season to be completed on the pitch after all. We’d finally find out what Atleti’s fate was to be. Would Simeone and his troopers claw their way back up from that cliff edge or would they plummet to the depths of Thursday night trips to Hungary, Kazakhstan and Norway?
Just five matches into the sequel, not even at the halfway point, we already know the answer.
By taking 13 points from a possible 15 and by suddenly winning four LaLiga matches in a row for the first time all season, Atlético have propelled themselves into third place and are now almost as close to the title race as they are to fifth.
This cliffhanger has been solved, but it’s almost been solved too early. It’s like the episode of a TV series where the reason you were so desperate to tune back in is already a non-factor and now you’re watching on to the end of the next episode…well, just because.
Barcelona vs Atlético on Tuesday night was supposed to be an equally huge fixture for both teams, with the former battling for the championship and the latter needing every point they could get to try to finish in the top four and book that Champions League ticket. But now, Atleti could walk away from a Camp Nou defeat without any fatal wounds. No matter what happens, they’d still sit in third place.
Similarly, Atleti’s last two games against Getafe away and Real Sociedad at home looked as if they’d be massive, with all the marbles on the line. Now, it’s likely that a top four finish will already be secured by the time those games roll around. Getafe and Real Sociedad’s possibilities of Champions League qualification may already have been mathematically ruled out by then, too.
We’ll all continue watching for the rest of the season because that’s what football fans do. But the original cliffhanger that had us so excited has been resolved already. It’s good news for Atleti fans. It’s bad news for entertainment.