Latest victory for Atletico Madrid leads to suggestions they could challenge for La Liga title

 

Atletico Madrid have quietly crept up the standings to second and suddenly find themselves being talked about as possible challengers to the La Liga hegemony of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Fired by the goals of Colombia striker Radamel Falcao and inspired by their intensely charismatic Argentine coach Diego Simeone, they are only two points behind leaders Barcelona following Wednesday's 4-2 win at Real Betis.

"Scare for Barca," blared the front-page of Madrid-based sports daily Marca today, next to a shot of Falcao celebrating one of his two goals in Seville.

The Europa League champions, who are known as the "mattress makers" and who last won the title in 1996 with Simeone in the side, have a chance for a rare taste of life at the top if Barca slip up at Sevilla on Saturday and Atletico can win at Espanyol.

Simeone told reporters after the Betis victory he and his players were not about to let their impressive early run go to their heads.

Atletico have yet to test their title credentials against Real or Barca, although their 4-1 destruction of Champions League winners Chelsea in last month's European Super Cup, when Falcao netted a hat-trick, suggests they may have what it takes to succeed on the big occasion.

"We are not paying attention to the points but to the opponents we have to play against," said Simeone, a tough-tackling former Argentina captain who was a fan favourite at Atletico and also had stints at Inter Milan and Lazio.

"The Spanish championship is very tough, above all to win away," the 42-year-old added. "Our focus is already on Espanyol."

Falcao's double in Seville took his league tally for the season to seven in five matches, one more than Barca's World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, last season's top scorer with a record 50 goals.

Real forward Cristiano Ronaldo has three and Atletico fans will have to pinch themselves when they see their bitter city rivals, who have had a woeful start to the defence of their title, down in seventh on only seven points.

As Atletico celebrate an impressive start to the season, however, speculation about Falcao's future continues to swirl and the cash-strapped club may be hard pressed to hold on to him, even beyond the January transfer window.

Falcao, who has a minor muscle strain and may be a doubt for Sunday's game, is refusing to feed the rumours and said on Wednesday he was completely focused on Atletico.

"We are just thinking about each match at a time and we are not making any general evaluation," he told reporters.

"The most important thing is the game next and we are just looking to keep getting past the obstacle of each weekend."

Barca can make it six wins out of six at Sevilla, before Real host promoted Deportivo Coruna on Sunday.

Stuttering Valencia, down in 15th on five points, are at home to Real Zaragoza on Saturday, when fourth-placed Malaga host Betis.

Real Mallorca have surprised by climbing up to third, level on 11 points with Malaga and Sevilla, and play at Getafe on Monday.

Reuters

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
health
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform