After just two games it looked as though Atletico were already out of this year’s title race. They’d dropped points to two newly-promoted sides in Alaves and Leganes, and by mid-September, they were playing catch-up with a Real Madrid team boasting a 100 per cent record in the league.
However, skip forward just three games, and Diego Simeone’s men are sitting at the top of La Liga, level on points with Zinedine Zidane’s men.
And they don’t look like moving any time soon.
Last year they levelled a 22-year-old record by conceding just 18 goals in 38 league games. And if early form is anything to go by this year, you can expect more of the same from Los Colchoneros, who’ve let in just two goals in nine competitive games this campaign.
Though Barcelona and Real Madrid both possess more of an attacking threat, scoring 22 and 16 league goals respectively to date, it seems they’re much easier to break down. Between them, they’ve already conceded just one goal less than Atletico did all season last time out.
The Catalonian outfit, for all their attacking prowess, have shown signs of weakness in defeats to Alaves and more recently Celta Vigo. And the absence of Lionel Messi looks to be a huge factor in things going wrong at the Camp Nou.
Elsewhere, it’s now four draws in a row in all competitions for Los Blancos, three of which have been in their domestic league. And while they remain unbeaten so far this season, it’s clear they’re struggling to get the job done.
As things stand, just five points separate the top 11 in the table, a gap which hasn’t been this close after seven games since the 2001-02 campaign.
It’s clear the standard in Spanish football across the board is improving, with the so-called lesser clubs proving they can mix it with the big boys.
And while there still remains an expectation on Zidane and Luis Enrique’s men to blitz every game, Atletico are quietly going about their business, and look like excellent value for the title at 9/2.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing