Atletico reverting to type with title in sight

Joseph Walker
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: La Liga Santander - Atletico Madrid v Athletic Bilbao

By Joseph Walker

MADRID (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid took many people by surprise earlier this season with a more expansive attack-minded brand of football.

A far cry from Diego Simeone's usual 4-4-2 formation, Atleti switched to a 3-5-2 with flair players like Yannick Carrasco, Thomas Lemar and Joao Felix trusted in key areas.

It was a resounding success, leading Los Rojiblancos to the Liga summit. At the start of February they had a 10-point lead at the top, which has since been reduced to six.

However with the league reaching the business end and the title now in sight, it appears that Simeone might be reverting to type if their recent displays are anything to go by.

While the rearguard action could not keep Real Madrid out in last weekend's 1-1 home derby draw, they shut up shop after coming from behind to take the lead against Athletic Bilbao in Wednesday's crucial 2-1 victory at the Wanda Metropolitano.

On Saturday they travel to Getafe looking to maintain their six-point cushion over second-placed Barcelona, with only defender Jose Maria Gimenez absent through injury ahead of the short trip across the Spanish capital.

"We needed to get back to winning ways, and the effort we put in was great," Simeone said. "I always say that the second half of the season is really, really tough because everyone is fighting for their own targets."

Barca, meanwhile, will look to bounce back from their disappointing Champions League last-16 exit at Paris St-Germain on Wednesday and take advantage of any possible slip-up by Atleti when they host bottom club Huesca on Monday.

Centre-back Ronald Araujo faces a late fitness test, while Sergi Roberto, Gerard Pique, Ansu Fati and Philippe Coutinho will all likely miss out.

Third-placed Real Madrid, who are eight points off the pace, host Elche on Saturday, while the weekend's action kicks off on Friday with a Valencian city derby as Levante host Valencia.

(Reporting by Joseph Walker; Editing by Ken Ferris)