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Atlético Femenino update: Europe now an illusion, but Copa de la Reina still an objective

A coaching change and a cup run are Atlético’s highlights so far this season.

Granada CF v Atletico de Madrid - Copa De La Reina
Barbara Latorre of Atlético de Madrid reacts as she fails to score during the Copa de la Reina (Queen’s Cup) quarterfinal match between Granada CF Femenino and Atlético de Madrid Femenino at Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes on March 8, 2023.
Photo by Fermin Rodriguez/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

As soon as the final whistle drew the curtains on December’s derby against Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid Femenino’s season reached a crossroads.

A narrow 1-0 defeat at the hands of the eternal rivals was difficult to digest, and it looked that the poor start to the 2022/23 campaign was spiraling out of control.

Atletico de Madrid v Real Madrid - Liga F
Head coach Manolo Cano of Atletico de Madrid looks on during the Liga F match between Atletico de Madrid and Real Madrid at Wanda Sport Centre on March 12, 2023 in Alcala de Henares, Spain.
Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

The women’s team management, then, took a bold decision to replace coach Óscar Fernández with Manolo Cano.

For Cano, this is new experience — his first job in the women’s game since embarking on a coaching career back in 1998. In his early years, Cano was at notable clubs like Granada – in La Liga – and Numancia as an assistant coach before his coaching career took off in 2015 at Guadalajara, in Mexico.

The following year, he made his way to Atlético Madrid, where he took charge of the men’s youth team, whom he led to the 2017/18 domestic double.

When taking over Atlético’s women’s team, Cano’s primary task was to guide Atlético into UEFA Women’s Champions League qualifying spots. But the gap to third-place Levante is now 10 points, with just eight games remaining. This seems an improbable, if not impossible, task.

Nonetheless, one has to look closely at Cano’s track record in charge of the team. Atlético Femenino are unbeaten in 12 consecutive games since the Dec. 11 loss to Real Madrid, including wins over Real Sociedad and Granada in the Copa de la Reina as Atlético are now in the final four of that competition.

The semi-finals, pencilled for May, see Atlético, Real Madrid, Alhama and Athletic Bilbao competing for a spot in the final. This then is a golden opportunity for Atlético to wrap up this campaign on a high, with an eye on the 2023/2024 season.

However, they will have to challenge for the cup without talisman Ludmila, who picked up an ACL injury during the 0-0 draw with Real Madrid on March 12. As a result, the Brazilian forward will miss the remainder of this campaign and won’t be able to take part in this summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Atlético Femenino’s next league game takes place this coming Sunday, away to Alavés.