Pete Jenson's A Different League: Can Atletico Madrid 'do a Kimi Raikkonen' and pip the big two to the title?

 

Amid the slowed-down replays of Sergio Busquets looking down at Pepe as he lay on the ground before running his studs over his head, and the inquest into every incident that took place during Sunday’s Clasico – one of which involved Pepe apparently saying to Lionel Messi: “Every time I mark you, you shit yourself.” To which Messi allegedly replied: “Every time you mark me, I score” – one stone-cold fact was largely forgotten: Atletico Madrid are top of La Liga.

On Wednesday they should beat Granada at home and maintain that advantage into what will be the final eight matches of the season. Coach Diego Simeone said on Tuesday that if they are still in the title race with five games to go he will finally admit that they are in the race.

Until now he has laughed off the suggestion that they can possibly go the distance with Barcelona and Real Madrid – two clubs who earn around €100m (£85m) a year each more than Atletico in TV revenue.

Simeone’s team have the toughest run-in with trips to fourth-placed Athletic Bilbao and the Nou Camp. There is concern at Real that they will roll over in that last game of the season against Barcelona just to prevent their city rivals from winning the league. But that contempt for Atletico’s challenge – assuming they will not go into the final game with a chance to win the league themselves – has fuelled the underdogs’ charge all season.

Real’s toughest test could come tonight in Seville where, still groggy from the 4-3 defeat to Barcelona, they must face a team who have won their last five games in the league and are now fifth. Real showed on Sunday how they are missing winger Jese and defender Alvaro Arbeloa, while they will also be without the suspended Angel Di Maria on Wednesday night.

If Barcelona can concentrate on the football amid all the off-the-field controversies, they should still have the edge. Especially as, after the win at the Bernabeu, they now have the advantage in crucial head-to-head goal difference. If they finish level on points with Real they would win the league, it has been pointed out. But there everybody goes again – forgetting the “other team”.

This could be like the 2007 Formula One season finale when Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso bickered their way into the final race with just a point between them only for Kimi Raikkonen to win the grand prix and the championship.

“We are not in a Ferrari,” would be Simone’s response if you asked him whether Atletico could be this year’s flying Finn. Understating his team’s chances has done him no harm so far.

Eto’o still has his sharp reactions

When Pep Guardiola became Barcelona’s first-team coach in 2008 he told the club’s president Joan Laporta he did not want Samuel Eto’o.

He was eventually persuaded to keep Eto’o – one of Laporta’s favourites – for one more season. An uneasy peace pact was sealed and Eto’o made a huge contribution to Barcelona winning every trophy they contested that season – but was still sold.

It was no surprise this week to hear Eto’o say: “I had to remind him he had never been a great player. He never had the courage to say things to my face. I told him: ‘You are not normal are you? Trying to give me lessons on how to be a striker.’”

Guardiola ultimately replaced Eto’o with Messi so he hardly called it wrong. But it is also true that Eto’o had delivered two European Cups and would win another at Internazionale. Incendiary comments and bad feeling towards former clubs has characterised his career, yet Eto’o has been one of European football’s greatest strikers and vital goals this season for Chelsea suggest he hasn’t finished yet.

Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
David Hasselhof in Peter Pan
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
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.

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'