Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw at Chelsea meant 2014 and 2016 finalists Atletico Madrid crashed out of this season’s Champions League within the group phases, and confirmed that Diego Simeone’s group would undergo following the off-pitch selections made in recent times.
The harm had been performed earlier within the group with Atletico drawing each video games with Azerbaijani outsiders Qarabag. And earlier than that, when the membership had been banned from making transfers in 2016. In the meantime, the hierarchy pushed by means of a transfer to a brand new stadium but it surely doesn’t but really feel like residence.
When midfielder Saul Niguez headed Atletico in entrance simply after half time at Stamford Bridge it appeared Simeone’s aspect may simply pull off one among their trademark backs-to-the-wall victories. However hope of a miracle escape was extinguished virtually on the identical second by Diego Perotti’s aim for Roma at residence to Qarabag. That meant Stefan Savic’s personal aim was tutorial. It was clear Simeone’s aspect had been destined for the Europa League.
Goalkeeper Jan Oblak, Atletico’s finest participant at Stamford Bridge, informed Gol TV the frustration was attributable to setbacks in every of their first 4 group video games.
“This Champions League [campaign] was not determined as we speak, however in earlier video games,” Oblak stated. “In our first recreation we had many probabilities to win, the second we misplaced within the final minute, the third and fourth we should always have received however did not.”
Simeone additionally identified his group had misplaced simply one among their six group fixtures. One level from their first two residence fixtures was a killer. Atletico had been defeated simply as soon as in 23 European video games below Simeone on the Vicente Calderon, the place opponents as huge as Barcelona and Bayern Munich had been intimidated in recent times.
Shedding to Chelsea within the first Champions League recreation on the Wanda Metropolitano was an enormous blow. Following that with a 1-1 draw at residence to Qarabag was a catastrophe.
Within the Stamford Bridge blended zone on Wednesday night time, Saul went again even additional — to his miss of an open aim late within the goalless draw at Roma on this season’s Champions League opener.
“We should have some self-criticism,” Saul stated. “It’s our personal fault as we had been lower than the duty. Everybody talks in regards to the video games towards Qarabag, but it surely was additionally the opposite matches. Personally within the [opening] recreation towards Roma I had a transparent probability to attain. We discovered it onerous to attain objectives within the early video games, and that has marked the way in which the entire group went. That miss has affected me because it might have modified every thing.”
Saul was not the one responsible celebration. Atletico scored simply two of their 76 pictures at aim, whereas taking three factors from their first 4 group video games. In the meantime, summer time signing Diego Costa was sat within the stands watching on helpless.
Enjoying was not attainable after the membership’s hierarchy had been caught breaking FIFA guidelines by signing younger gamers from abroad, after which bungled their response in order that [unlike neighbours Real Madrid] their year-long ban on registering new gamers was not decreased on enchantment. That scenario additionally introduced all of the uncertainty round Antoine Griezmann’s future on the membership, one thing which has lingered on all through the marketing campaign.
Atletico chief government Miguel Angel Gil Marin can be counting the price of the early Champions League exit. Dropping to the Europa League goes to value not less than €30 million in TV and prize cash, a blow to funds which had been already tight as a result of difficult financing of their stadium transfer.
Even earlier than this, the plan was to maneuver on two gamers in January to unlock house for Costa and Vitolo on the wage invoice. On Wednesday morning a really well-connected AS report warned that additional exits could also be wanted to make up the opening within the price range for the season.
Final time Atletico went out of the Champions League group phases, again in 2009-10, they received that season’s Europa League. Simeone’s group have now been put in forward of Arsenal and AC Milan as favourites to carry this yr’s trophy — they usually have additionally quietly moved into place as Barcelona’s most certainly challengers in La Liga.
However for this Atletico group the Champions League stays an important, the one competitors they’ve entered and never received throughout Simeone’s time in cost.
This yr’s try at their Holy Grail was hamstrung even earlier than it begun.
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based soccer author who covers La Liga and the Spain nationwide group for ESPN FC. Observe him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan