How quickly things changed for the first two clubs fighting for the Spanish league title.
Not so long ago, everything seemed to be going the way of Atletico Madrid. The team had to win and had a comfortable lead at the top. There was no sign that he could be caught.
Barcelona, meanwhile, has struggled on and off the field, withstanding political turmoil and poor results. There was no sign that he could return to the top.
But the clubs entered the final part of the season in contrasting situations, as Atletico fell and Barcelona gained momentum.
Both teams were eliminated in the round of 16 of the Champions League, but Barcelona have won four times in a row in the league, while Atletico have only two victories in their last six games.
The Catalan club is moving within four points of Atletico before the matches over the weekend, when Atletico hosted the relegation Alaves on Sunday, and Barcelona later visited the fifth place of Real Sociedad. Defending champions Real Madrid are six points ahead of the lead and remain in dispute, although their focus will be shared with the Champions League.
After the weekend, there will be 10 league games left for each team, with Atletico looking for their first title since 2014 and Barcelona third for four seasons. The Catalan club will host Atletico in May.
Barcelona, with a new president in place after months of political turmoil, was eliminated by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, although they played well in the return leg a week ago. Atletico were knocked out by Chelsea on Wednesday after losing both legs.
“Our fans should be upset and disappointed,” said Atletico coach Diego Simeone. “But we have to restart and think about what lies ahead. We need to learn and improve and continue with the same dedication and enthusiasm. “
On Wednesday, Simeone had to answer questions about Luis Suarez, who led the team after joining Barcelona this season, but was upset after being replaced at the start of the second half in London.
“It’s normal for him to want to keep playing,” Simeone said. “We felt we could improve the dynamics of the attack, so we made the change.”
Atletico’s struggles coincided with some cases of COVID-19 in the team and the absences of some players due to injuries and removals. Simeone was forced to experiment with different tactical formations and the team did not adapt quickly. Usually his strong defense fluctuates and at one point the team endured its worst series of goals since Simeone took over nearly a decade ago.
The league is the only title Atletico can still win this season, while Barcelona are still competing in the Copa del Rey, where they will face Athletic Bilbao in the final on April 17. Barcelona went untitled last season for the first time since 2007-08.
MADRID IS STILL ALIVE
Real Madrid have two consecutive 1-1 draws in the league – at Atletico and against Sociedad, but the team, coached by Zinedine Zidane, enters Saturday’s match against Celta Vigo, reinforced by their return to the quarterfinals of the Champions League after two consecutive eliminations in the quarterfinals. He beat Atalanta 3-1 on Tuesday to continue 4-1 overall.
Fourth place in Seville, three points behind Madrid, visit Valladolid on Saturday. Sevilla has a nine-point difference from Sociedad in last place in the Champions League qualifiers.