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Atlético Femenino update: Brain cancer survivor Torrecilla makes emotional return to the field

Atlético were on a four-game winning streak before falling to dominant Barcelona in the Supercopa final.

FC Barcelona v Atletico de Madrid - Women’s Super Cup Final Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Since our last Atlético Madrid Femenino wrap-up, the team had embarked on a solid five-game unbeaten run that boosted their UEFA Women’s Champions League qualification hopes and helped them set up a Super Cup final against rampant Barcelona.

Unfortunately for Atlético, the final turned out to be a very disappointing one.

Óscar Fernández’s side succumbed to a 7-0 defeat in Sunday’s final to that world-class Barcelona side, which is on its way to another domestic clean sweep.

Nonetheless, the biggest news in the Atlético camp is the return of midfielder Virginia Torrecilla, who was named in the Super Cup squad and made an emotional return on the pitch in the final.

Torrecilla, 27, was making her first appearance since an international friendly for Spain against England back in March 2020, before she was diagnosed with a brain tumor in May.

“I am very happy to be here with them, to share everything,” she said during a pre-match interview. “I have been training for a long time, but this step has been very important in the process I endured.

“It is very special to be here.”

Torrecilla’s incredible return to play was the Supercopa final’s sole highlight for Atlético, who were already three goals down in the opening 45 minutes before conceding four after the change of ends. Barça scored twice inside the game’s first five minutes and twice in the last five minutes.

However, this game should not mar Atlético’s fine run so far, which saw them win three of their last four games and defeat Levante 3-2 in the nerve-wrecking semifinal.

Atletico de Madrid v Sporting Huelva - Primera Iberdrola
Deyna Castellanos Atletico de Madrid women celebrates after scoring her team’s second goal during Primera Division Femenina match between Atletico de Madrid women and Sporting de Huelva women at Wanda Sport Centre on January 16, 2022 in Madrid, Spain.
Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Venezuelan starlet Deyna Castellanos grabbed one of the goals in that semifinal. Castellanos is emerging as the face of the team, and her form has started to peak.

The 22-year-old had scored four goals in three games prior to the Barcelona demolition. She notched goals against Villarreal and Levante in addition to a dramatic brace that helped Atleti overturn a two-goal deficit and beat second-place Sporting Huelva.

In that crazy game, Sporting Huelva led 2-0 until nine minutes from the end, when Ludmila pulled one back. Castellanos earned Atlético all three points thanks to 90th and 95th-minute goals.

These positive results have kept Atlético in the driving seat for a European berth, as they sit third with 34 points after 16 games. They have one game in hand that could potentially see them cut second-place Real Sociedad’s lead to just three points.

The upcoming fixtures before the February’s women’s international window will see Atlético face Deportivo Alavés, Madrid CFF, Real Sociedad and Sevilla. It is safe to say February will be a litmus test for this ambitious Atleti side.

Banini in FIFA Best XI

Atletico de Madrid v Deportivo Alaves - Primera Division Femenina Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Midfielder Estefania Banini was included in FIFA’s Best 11 women players for the 2020/2021 season.

Banini, who joined Atlético from Levante last year, became the first Argentine player to be honored with a Best 11 selection.

A total of 3,675 players who play at the highest level across 46 countries were eligible to vote in this process.

Surprisingly, Banini was placed in a midfield that included Juventus’ Barbara Bonansea and Carli Lloyd but had no place for Ballon D’Or winner Alexia Putellas, who has starred for Spain and Barcelona.