Unai Emery reckons Diego Simeone has got the Atletico Madrid job for life.

Unless Simeone decides to call a halt to his Wanda Metropolitano career, Emery cannot see the club parting ways with the charismatic Argentine boss.

That factor reduces Emery's chances of getting back into coaching at the highest level in Spain, as he searches for the next calling point in a well-travelled career following spells at Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal.

Simeone has spent over eight years in charge at Atletico, leading them to the 2013-14 LaLiga title and two Champions League finals.

Atleti have established themselves as the most consistent challengers to Real Madrid and Barcelona for the biggest prizes in Spain, which is why when Emery looks at potential landing spots in LaLiga, he finds it hard to see an opportunity coming up with the Rojiblancos.

"You go where they want you," Emery said to AS. "Now I live in Valencia to be with my son, but I'm registered in Madrid. I don't know where my next project will be, I am open to everything.

"What is clear is that Atletico have Simeone, who should be with the team until he wants to be, or his whole life, because there is no one who fits like him."

Emery first forged his reputation with successful spells in charge of Valencia and Sevilla, but the 48-year-old would not discount taking charge of either side's main city rivals, Levante and Real Betis.

"I'm a professional," Emery said. "My heart has always been with Real Sociedad, where I was for 10 years, but if Athletic [Bilbao] ever called me... I've been to Valencia, but if Levante called me... I have been to Sevilla, but if Betis called me...

"Wherever they want me and I feel recognised, I will be there, and that will be what matters."

The record-breaking goalscoring exploits of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi tend to lead the discussion when it comes to the Champions League, but there have also been plenty of masterful performances at the other end of the pitch.

One such display came on April 19 three years ago, when Juventus proved nigh on impenetrable at the back and saw off Barcelona in the quarter-finals of the competition.

Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid and an Inter team led by Jose Mourinho have also provided some of the most memorable rearguard showings in Europe.

We look back at five of the best defensive displays in Champions League history.

 

1992-93 final: Marseille 1-0 Milan

Marseille were the underdogs at the Olympiastadion in Munich but managed to become the first French champions of Europe in the inaugural Champions League.

Daniele Massaro went close to an early opener for Milan when he nodded narrowly wide, and he was denied from an acute angle by Fabien Barthez after the goalkeeper blocked a low attempt from Marco van Basten.

Basile Boli had been struggling with a muscular injury for much of the first half but he headed home Abedi Pele's corner to put Raymond Goethals' side ahead on the stroke of half-time.

Marseille held firm for the entirety of the second period to claim the trophy, with Boli telling UEFA: "Those last 45 minutes felt like 45 years, and by the time the final whistle blew it felt like 100 years."

However, Marseille were barred from defending their title after a Ligue 1 match-fixing scandal saw them stripped of their domestic crown and relegated.

 

2004-05 semi-finals second leg: Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea (1-0 agg)

After a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge that saw Jerzy Dudek worked more than Petr Cech, Liverpool took just four minutes to score against Chelsea – who had been crowned Premier League champions for the first time in 50 years three days prior – in the return match at Anfield.

Luis Garcia cored with what was subsequently branded the 'ghost goal', with replays and a lack of technology unable to definitively clarify whether the ball had crossed the line before William Gallas cleared it.

Rafael Benitez's Liverpool sat back for the rest of the game and comfortably soaked up the limited pressure Chelsea placed upon them, ending their hopes of a treble.

Eidur Gudjohnsen spurned a glorious chance to equalise in stoppage time after a tame punch from Dudek, meaning Liverpool advanced to the final against Milan.

In Istanbul it was attack rather than defence that underpinned the Reds' success as they came from 3-0 down to defeat the Rossoneri on penalties and be crowned champions of Europe for the fifth time.

 

2009-10 semi-final second leg: Barcelona 1-0 Inter (2-3 agg)

Mourinho's Inter may have been defeated at Camp Nou, but a 3-1 advantage from the first leg meant it was they who advanced to the final.

Their resilience was put to the ultimate test when former Barca midfielder Thiago Motta was shown a red card in the 28th minute for putting his hand in the face of Sergio Busquets, who certainly made the most of the contact.

Even with a numerical disadvantage Inter nullified an attack that boasted Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Pedro with a compact showing, while their continued gamesmanship caused frustration in the Barca ranks throughout a fiery encounter.

Gerard Pique gave Pep Guardiola's men a glimmer of hope when he finally broke the deadlock in the 84th minute, but they were unable to deny Mourinho cause to sprint across the pitch in celebration at the final whistle.

Inter made the final for the first time since 1972 and defeated Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu to complete a historic treble.

 

2015-16 quarter-finals second leg: Atletico Madrid 2-0 Barcelona (3-2 agg)

Barcelona's quest to become the first team to retain the Champions League trophy was ended by Atletico at the Vicente Calderon.

A trademark defensive masterclass from Simeone saw Atletico blunt one of modern football's greatest attacking units – the MSN of Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.

The hosts had just 28 per cent of possession and completed a fifth of the passes Barca put together (122 to 616), but the imperious combination of Diego Godin and Lucas Hernandez kept Luis Enrique's team at bay.

Antoine Griezmann converted a delivery from Saul Niguez in the first half and slotted home a late penalty after Andres Iniesta was penalised for handball, sending Barca crashing out.

A similarly brilliant performance at the back saw Atleti beat Bayern to a place in the final but they were defeated by local rivals Real Madrid in the showpiece for the second time in three years.

 

2016-17 quarter-finals second leg: Barcelona 0-0 Juventus (0-3 agg)

They may have been defeated in the first leg courtesy of an inspired Paulo Dybala display, but having overturned a 4-0 aggregate deficit against Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 Barca will still have had high hopes of getting past Juve.

Unsurprisingly they peppered the visitors' goal with shots but they were only able to hit the target with one of them, Messi warming Gianluigi Buffon's gloves from 25 yards in the first half.

Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci – who were joined by third centre-back Andrea Barzagli for the final 15 minutes – showed tremendous composure and discipline to provide Buffon with outstanding protection throughout.

Massimiliano Allegri's side consequently joined Manchester United (2007-08) and Bayern (2012-13) as the only teams to stop Barca scoring in both legs of a Champions League tie.

Juve went on to reach the final but were unable to end a 21-year wait to get their hands on the trophy, with Madrid making it two in a row in Cardiff.

Valencia's scattered defenders looked like a collection of punch-drunk strangers after Atalanta wing-back Hans Hateboer tore gleefully down their vacant left flank and smashed home his second goal of the match.

With just over an hour played, Gian Piero Gasperini's blue and black wrecking machine were 4-0 up in the club's first ever Champions League knockout tie.

Blistering long-range strikes from Josip Ilicic and Remo Freuler sparked scenes of delirium in the stands at San Siro - Milan's celebrated football coliseum and temporary home to Atalanta's European home matches, with more than 40,000 fans making the pilgrimage from Bergamo for the most significant night in their club's 112-year history.

The other standout victory in the last-16 of Europe's top competition, of those ties completed, came via very different means. There is something irresistibly Machiavellian about Diego Simeone's iron-willed Atletico Madrid teams when they are pushing all the right buttons at just the wrong time as far as illustrious opponents, such as reigning champions Liverpool, are concerned.

Simeone yelping with outstretched arms as he cavorted towards the Anfield Road End after Alvaro Morata's tie-sealing goal was an image ripe for any best of Champions League compilation. Only now it is burned onto our collective consciousness with an underlying unease.

A day before Atleti's Merseyside heist, Atlanta continued their artful disembowelment of Valencia, winning 4-3 at the Mestalla to seal a remarkable 8-4 aggregate triumph. Only there were no fans present to witness Ilicic's four-goal masterclass. Coronavirus had its grip on the continent and pulling down the shutters on football would soon tumble down most people's list of priorities.

"Bergamo, this is for you. Never give up," read the slogan on a t-shirt the Atalanta players held up to a television camera after their eerie victory in Spain. Their home city was already dealing with a mounting death toll.

Professor Fabiano Di Marco, head of pulmonology at Bergamo's Pope John XXIII Hospital told Corriere della Sera the initial match at San Siro, with all of its accompanying travel and social interaction had been a "biological bomb" – a description with which mayor Giorgio Gori concurred.

“It was not the right decision to stage the match," Liverpool City Council's newly installed director of public health Matthew Ashton said of the Atletico game, where 3,000 travelling supporters attended against the backdrop of an increasingly grave situation in Madrid. "People don’t make bad decisions on purpose – perhaps the seriousness of the situation wasn’t being understood across government at that time."


Atalanta are Bergamo and Bergamo is Atalanta – you can't have one without the other.

Atalanta's transformation into Europe's great entertainers is every bit as unlikely as it is glorious.

"All the stereotypes of Italian football being 0-0, 0-0, 0-0 – that's Edy Reja's dream. He doesn't ever want a goal to be scored in a football match," said Conor Clancy, editor-in-chief at the Forza Italian Football website, when discussing Gasperini's immediate predecessor.

"It was some of the most turgid football I have ever seen in my life, the last season before Gasperini came in. So when he came along you wondered how it was going to work – a team of cloggers who probably can't pass the ball five yards and Papu Gomez being the only footballer in the group.

"But he just improved everybody. I don’t really know how he's done it."

Progress since under a coach who was best known for a swiftly aborted five-game spell in charge of Inter in 2011 has been staggering.

Atalanta's best points total in Serie A was 52 upon Gasperini's arrival. In 2016-17, they amassed 72 and have never been below their previous best. They have finished fourth, seventh and third in his completed campaigns, fired by a freewheeling attack in which the talismanic Gomez and mercurial Ilicic have a prolific ally in Duvan Zapata.

Last term they were Serie A's top scorers with 77 goals and already have 70 after 25 matches in 2019-20 – the reward for an audacious and bold tactical setup, where industrious central midfield duo Freuler and Marten de Roon operate in front of a ball-playing back three, while interchanging with a pair of adventurous wing-backs and a creative forward trident.

When everything clicks, opponents are utterly overwhelmed. In between the Valencia matches, Atalanta scored seven times in a Serie A match for the third time this season when they hammered Lecce 7-2. Either side of the mid-season break, Milan and Parma were each dispatched 5-0. Zapata, Ilicic and Luis Muriel are all into double figures for the league season.

They are an easy side to adore for a fervent fanbase. Gasperini has expressed an ambition to be seen as Atalanta's Alex Ferguson and has, along with Gomez, been granted the freedom of Bergamo.

"Papu is the symbol of this club and an environment made of many carefully selected players," the club's former defender Guglielmo Stendardo told Stats Perform at the end of last month.

"He is the symbol of Atalanta and I hope he can go on like this for many seasons. He is still super fit, he performs having fun. This is the spirit of the complete sportsman.

"Players like Zapata, Ilicic and Gomez show Atalanta is an arrival point for footballers, whereas before it was more of a springboard for young talents. Now this is a club consistently top ranking in Italy and in Europe."

Club president Antonio Percassi appeared equal parts bemused and delighted when he was able to rebuff Inter's €50million approach for Zapata last year. It was a sign his squad drawn from a vast global scouting operation, pulling would-be stars and misfits from Argentina, Netherlands, Switzerland, Ukraine and beyond, are now dining at the top table.

For all this emphatic progress, the showdown with Valencia – reached despite losing their opening three Champions League group games before drawing the fourth against Manchester City, who finished with Kyle Walker in goal at San Siro – came with the enticing promise of being able to display the Gasperini project, in all its glory, to the world.

"The whole city shut down for that game," said Clancy, who also counts himself as an ardent Atalanta supporter. "There was a driving school, which was closed for the day because the owners went down to Milan for the match.

"Just a lot of little things where people were putting signs up all over the city saying we're closed for today because it's a huge day in the history of the city, the football club, the people, everything.

"That set the scene before the game even kicked off. After that game, I'm in a few Atalanta forums and Facebook pages, and I've never seen anything like it. The emotion was just phenomenal. Being at San Siro as well was pretty special.

"That connection has always been there. Atalanta are Bergamo and Bergamo is Atalanta – you can't have one without the other.

"If you go to any city in Italy and ask people what they're doing on Sunday, they'll say 'I'm going to the stadium'. In Bergamo they say 'I'm going to Atalanta'. There's no mention of a sport, no mention of a place. It's just Atalanta."


Cholo is a leader, a fighter, the emblem and the mirror of what Atleti itself is.

Undiluted passion, common purpose between players and supporters and an unflinching commitment to a tactical idea are traits Atalanta hold in common with Atletico, even if the realisation on the field could scarcely be more different.

A Copa del Rey and LaLiga winner during his playing days at the Vicente Calderon, Simeone returned in 2011 to take charge of a club with a reputation for burning through head coaches. He promptly won the Europa League and then set about pestering Spanish football's duopoly.

Champions League final losses to Real Madrid in 2014 and 2016 stung horribly, but steering a course to LaLiga glory in 2013-14 remains a crowning achievement for one of this era's giants of the dugout.

"Regarding what Cholo means to us, the supporters, it is everything," said Atletico fan Oscar Medina Ochoa, who made the trip to Anfield. "He is a leader, a fighter, the emblem and the mirror of what Atleti itself is.

"A motto of the club, the lyrics of our anthem, is "'courage and heart'. That is what he represents, from his time as a player and now as a coach.

"His way of understanding the club and teaching values ​​has made many people believe a [certain] way. It is true that there are people who no longer follow his philosophy and the press criticise him for the tactics, the financial outlay... but the truth is that since he has been there, the team has an identity of yesteryear - of a winning team."

Jurgen Klopp unequivocally added his name to that list of non-believers after his Anfield ordeal.

Atletico soaked up waves of pressure with something approaching masochistic delight, before springing from their shackles to score three times in extra time for a 3-2 win on the night and a 4-2 aggregate triumph.

The first of Marcos Llorente's crisply struck brace was timed for maximum torment, coming within three minutes of Roberto Firmino giving Liverpool the lead in the tie for the first and only time.

"I am completely happy with the performance. It's so difficult to play a side like this," Klopp told BT Sport.

"I don't understand with the quality they have the football they play. They could play proper football but they stand deep and have counter-attacks.

"We accept it, of course, but it doesn't feel right tonight. I realise I am a really bad loser, especially when the boys put such an effort in against world-class players on the other side who defend with two rows of four."

Atletico right-back Kieran Trippier told the same UK broadcaster that Simeone reprises his histrionic touchline persona in training every day – a frankly startling prospect.

"I’ve been here seven months and I’ve never seen anything like it, to be honest," the England international said.

"Starting from Diego Simeone – everyone feeds off him – he's an unbelievable manager. I can’t really explain how good it is here, it is just an unbelievable feeling and I’m proud to be part of this team."

The work ethic in which Trippier and others delight aligns Atletico with the club's traditionally working-class roots and Simeone has made this quality a non-negotiable when it comes to frequently bloodying the noses of Europe's aristocrats.

This week, the Champions League quarter-finals were due to commence and there would have been no more compelling tie than Atalanta versus Atletico Madrid.

How would Simeone, whose team have scored a paltry 31 times during an uneven LaLiga campaign, plot a path to outgun Gasperini's trigger-happy mavericks? How would the free-spirited Italian entertainers avoid succumbing to what former Australia cricket captain Steve Waugh (a man very much cut from the same sporting cloth as Simeone) termed "mental disintegration"?

And yet, two sets of players and fanatical fanbases in thrall to two radically different footballing visions must instead reckon with a reality where there is no comfort in hypotheticals.


If they had known the consequences, it is clear that everything would have been cancelled

"It is true that no-one prohibited the visit, there were simply the recommendations of the club," said Medina Ochoa, who spent the afternoon before Liverpool v Atletico at the city's famous Cavern Club, where fans draped an Atleti scarf over the statue of John Lennon on Matthew Street.

"If they had known the consequences, it is clear that everything would have been cancelled."

That March midweek developed queasily, with a sense that events were moving a step faster than any response.

On the day of the Liverpool-Atleti game, the Spanish government issued revised guidance to declare non-essential travel outside Madrid to be "irresponsible", while visiting fans were already in or en route to the UK.

Liverpool were given the go-ahead to allow fans in. Premier League games were scheduled that weekend. Then, on the Thursday, Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta tested positive for COVID-19. England's top flight joined the vast majority of elite European leagues in being postponed that weekend. None have returned due to tightening lockdown measures and a climate of unprecedented uncertainty.

As of April 4, Bergamo had 2,245 declared deaths. An investigation by local newspaper Eco di Bergamo estimated the virus killed around 4,500 in March. Lombardy, which includes Bergamo, has confirmed 9,722 deaths and 15,147 recoveries form 53,414 cases, making it the most affected region in Italy.

The Community of Madrid counts 5,800 deaths from 43,877 cases, with 21,121 sufferers recovered. Unfortunately, Atleti great Jose Luis Capon, former title-winning boss Raddy Antic and youth team player Christian Minchola will not be counted among the latter number.

"In this very moment of worldwide emergency, we all have to feel a bit Bergamaschi," Stendardo said.

"I have lived for five and a half years in a fantastic town like Bergamo, I realise how hard it is to fight back against the problems this virus has created.

"I am so devastated right now as I know Bergamo's citizens are rooted in their territory, have a strong sense of duty and incomparable work ethics. They don't deserve all this."

The work ethic Stendardo alluded to is evident among Atalanta's ultras, whose community spirit has been a visible part of the response.

Starting with a plea for fans to stay home after the Valencia triumph – traditionally any significant Atalanta win on the road is followed by fans greeting them with banners, flares and songs upon their return – the Curva Nord group donated a combined €40,000 that would have been spent on travelling to Spain to local hospitals.

A further €10,000 has been donated via a PayPal appeal since, while Curva Nord members also documented their efforts volunteering to build a temporary hospital in Bergamo.

While Ilicic has donated his hat-trick ball from the Mestalla to the Pope John XXIII Hospital, Atletico players have also been playing a part in Madrid – most notably in accepting 70 per cent pay cuts to ensure non-playing staff receive their full wages during the crisis.

Members of Simeone's squad have been conducting video calls with fans young and old, with Koke's conversation with the club's socio number one Pedro Palermo particularly touching.

All of these acts, big and small, show two clubs woven through the fabric of their frayed communities, becalmed but promising better days.

Italy marked one month in lockdown this week, a moment when in a parallel existence we would have been pouring over the fallout from an Atletico v Atalanta first leg and building up to next week's intriguing second instalment.

For now football belongs in the background, sustained in the hopes, dreams and memories of fans in Madrid, Bergamo and beyond. It feels like a comfortably fitting waiting spot for two inspirational teams.

 

Atletico Madrid players will accept a 70 per cent pay cut during the coronavirus crisis to protect the salaries of 430 non-playing staff, the LaLiga club have confirmed.

Atleti's measures mirror those taken by Barcelona and Real Madrid in response to the State of Emergency declared in Spain, where the death toll attributed to COVID-19 has surpassed 10,000.

A club statement on Thursday confirmed they would present a Temporary Employment Regulation File (ERTE) to enshrine a 70 per cent decrease in wages for players with Atletico Madrid B and Atletico Madrid Women, along with Diego Simeone's squad.

Additionally, all first-team players have signed an internal agreement that maps out two different scenarios depending on how the 2019-20 season concludes.

The statement read: "The filing will mean a 70 per cent reduction in the salaries of technicians and players of the men's first team, the women's first team and Atletico de Madrid B, while the declaration of the State of Emergency lasts.

"From the outset, the club's objective in studying possible measures to deal with this delicate situation has been to minimise its effect on the salaries of its employees as much as possible. 

"The agreement reached with the first team will also allow [for] supplementing the salary of 430 employees affected by the ERTE, a complement from which only players and coaches from professional teams are excluded. 

"To make this possible, the first squad will contribute half the necessary amount and the members of the club's management committee, made up of the chief executive and the directors of the different areas, the other half. "

Atletico lie sixth in the standings of a suspended LaLiga, while their final outing before football's continent-wide shutdown was a thrilling 3-2 extra-time victory over Liverpool at Anfield – sealing a place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League with a 4-2 aggregate triumph.

Atletico Madrid flew flags at half-mast on Sunday in honour of former defender Jose Luis Capon and youth team player Christian Minchola.

Capon, who won Spanish league titles with Atletico in 1973 and 1977 and the 1976 Copa del Rey during a 10-year spell at the club, died at the age of 72.

His passing came just 24 hours after the death of 14-year-old Minchola – a member of the club's youth team.

"Today is a sad day for the rojiblanca family," the club said in a statement.

"Atletico de Madrid is in mourning for the death of our former player Jose Luis Capon Gonzalez. The former rojiblanco defender died at the age of 72 in his hometown.

"To remember Capon, the flag honouring our fans located in the Wanda Metropolitano will fly at half-mast for 24 hours in honour of our legendary player.

"With the departure of Capon, the Atletico family loses another of the symbols that gave everything for this club on and off the pitch. From the club, the president, chief executive officer and our board offer their sincere condolences to all his family and friends."

Commenting on the death of Minchola, the cause of which has not been revealed, head coach Diego Simeone said: "With all my heart I send my condolences to Christian's family and friends. Rest in peace."

Club captain Koke added: "Anger and pain for having to say goodbye to Christian Minchola. Life is very unfair.

"Proud that you wore this shirt. Much encouragement to colleagues, family and friends. Rest in peace."

Atletico Madrid's thrilling Champions League extra-time triumph over Liverpool at Anfield already feels like an event belonging to another era.

As the days and weeks of sporting lockdown stretch on, we have Diego Simeone and his battle-hardened players to thank for tiding us over with a last, lingering memory of gripping sporting theatre.

When Jurgen Klopp's post-match critique of Atleti's reactive style – one that has served to make them a compelling and legitimate heavyweight of European football in the modern era – was put to Simeone, he offered his own interpretation.

"We try to exploit deficiencies in the opponent. That's what we do," he said, before adding, somewhat deliciously, "And we try to win, with all our soul."

However, while most of the footballing world except Michael Owen joined in with the plaudits, it was tempting to wonder whether this very same approach has left Atleti running on empty domestically.

LaLiga paused with 11 matches to play, topped by Barcelona and Real Madrid despite the two superpowers enduring unremarkable campaigns. Atleti are languishing in sixth, so we felt it was worth teaming up with our friends at Opta to examine how the land lies at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Dwnindling with Diego?

In all of their full seasons under Simeone, dating back to 2012-13, Atletico have never collected fewer points after 27 games than the 45 they have this time around.

Their next lowest was 52 points heading into the final stretch of 2016-17, where they promptly took 26 from the remaining 33 on offer and finished third. Do Simeone's current vintage have a similar charge for the line in their locker?

They still rely on a solid defence, although the departure of the formidable Diego Godin to Inter has left a mark. A return of 11 clean sheets from 27 games is not to be sniffed at, although neighbours Real Madrid (13) and Getafe (12) have earned more shutouts.

The problem is those solid foundations are being forced to do more work because the goals have dried up.

A haul of 31 LaLiga goals is Atleti's lowest at this stage of a season for 10 years. In fact, they have only scored 31 or fewer four times in their history after 27 matches.

The net result is 12 draws – at least three more than at the same point of any campaign over the past decade.

Cholismo in retrospect

Nevertheless, it is worth remembering we are judging Simeone by standards he has set himself – and what standards those are.

On Atletico's all-time list, he has managed the second highest number of LaLiga matches (315) behind Luis Aragones (407).

Simeone is just three behind former Spain boss Aragones' tally of 194 top-flight wins with the Rojoblancos.

It means his win percentage far outstrips any other long-serving incumbent. Indeed, victories in 60.6 per cent league matches in charge of Atleti can only be beaten by Otto Bumbel (66.7 per cent) and Antonio Briones (63.6 per cent), who oversaw 30 and 11 games respectively.

Europe's top five leagues have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic and there is widespread uncertainty over the future of the 2019-20 season.

Will tournaments be completed when conditions are suitable? Will things finish as they are? Will the campaign be declared null and void?

With the help of Opta, we look back over the previous 10 seasons to see who would have been crowned champions if the Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga had stopped where there are now.

 

Aguer-no!

It was an iconic moment in Premier League history. Sergio Aguero scored Manchester City's second stoppage-time goal as they came from behind to defeat QPR 3-2 and clinch their first top-flight title in 44 years, beating crestfallen arch-rivals Manchester United to the trophy on the final day of the season.

However, if the campaign had been stopped where it is now it would have been United who were celebrating due to a one-point advantage.

It is the only occasion since 2009-10 that the team on top after 29 matchdays has not won the Premier League.

 

Atleti's title wiped out

Atletico Madrid incredibly broke the Barcelona and Real Madrid duopoly in LaLiga in 2013-14, with Diego Godin salvaging a draw at Camp Nou on the final day to ensure they finished top of the pile.

However, it was local rivals Real Madrid, led by Carlo Ancelotti, who sat three points clear after 27 games of the season, meaning Diego Simeone's crowning achievement would not have occurred.

The only other instance of a team being displaced in the final 11 matches came in 2009-10, when Madrid sat ahead of Barca on goal difference but ended up seeing Pep Guardiola's men go on to win LaLiga for a second straight season.

 

Juventus dominance broken up

Eight straight Serie A titles have seen Juventus create history in Italy, but they would have only managed five if the previous seasons stopped after 26 games – the total the majority of clubs have completed in 2019-20.

The Bianconeri went undefeated under Antonio Conte in 2011-12, although it was Milan who topped the table at this point in the campaign, meaning Massimiliano Allegri would have won successive Scudetti at San Siro.

Maurizio Sarri would also not have had to have waited until winning the Europa League with Chelsea last year for his first major title.

Sarri's Napoli only surrendered top spot to Juve on matchday 27 in 2017-18 and they failed to recover it, missing out on their best chance to finish top since the Diego Maradona era.

 

QSI off to the perfect start

The landscape of Ligue 1 changed dramatically when Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) bought Paris Saint-Germain in June 2011, although no silverware was added to the Parc des Princes trophy cabinet in the first season following the takeover.

However, they would have been crowned champions had the 2011-12 season finished after 28 games, denying a Montpellier side powered by the goals of Olivier Giroud an unlikely first Ligue 1 title.

There would have been bad news for PSG in 2014-15, though, as the trophy would have gone to Hubert Fournier's Lyon due to a one-point margin.

Bordeaux would have made it back-to-back titles in 2009-10, too, with Marseille having made the most of a collapse that saw Laurent Blanc's side slip from first to sixth over the final 10 matches.

 

Bundesliga business as usual

What changes with the Bundesliga title winners if you stop the previous 10 seasons after 25 games? Nothing.

Bayern Munich would have won eight championships to Borussia Dortmund's two.

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone called for people to stay home in Spain to prevent the spread of coronavirus and protect "all of those around us".

LaLiga and Segunda games have been postponed for at least the next two matchdays in efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19, which continues to disrupt sport across the globe.

Simeone, who oversaw Atletico's Champions League last-16 victory over Liverpool on Wednesday, used social media to spread awareness about coronavirus.

"I wanted to send you a message of awareness," Simeone said in a video message posted to Twitter.

"From my home, I invite you all to follow the path set by the experts, taking care of ourselves and all of those around us. Let's stay home."

There have been more than 5,000 cases of coronavirus in Spain, with over 100 deaths.

Globally, over 5,400 people have died from the virus following more than 145,000 cases.

Prior to LaLiga being suspended, Atletico were sixth and a point behind fourth-placed Real Sociedad, with Barcelona two points clear atop the table.

Diego Simeone compared Jan Oblak to Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi after the goalkeeper's exploits as Atletico Madrid eliminated Champions League holders Liverpool.

Oblak produced a man-of-the-match display with a number of important saves in Atletico's stunning 3-2 extra-time victory over Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday.

Liverpool were on top for much of the last-16 second leg but they could not move clear of Atletico or get the better of Oblak as the visitors secured a 4-2 aggregate triumph thanks to Marcos Llorente's brace and Alvaro Morata's late goal.

Regarded as one of the world's best goalkeepers, Oblak earned high praise from Atletico head coach Simeone post-match.

"We have a goalkeeper who is the best in the world, no doubt," Simeone said. "I have been saying that for some time.

"It's like Barcelona who have Messi. He decides games with his attacking play; Oblak resolves them with his saves."

Llorente came off the bench to replace a frustrated Diego Costa and Simeone added: "Llorente revolutionised the team.

"I'm very happy for the team and the club. It was a historic match against an extraordinary opponent with great intensity and a beautiful stadium.

"They pushed and held, without us ever moving away from our plan and with everyone's effort we succeeded.

"It gives me an enormous joy because, although it seems simple, it's not simple to win."

How on earth would Atletico Madrid stem the rolling relentless red wave without being swept away?

On the other hand, how would Liverpool break down the most stubborn opponents of this European era, who had shoved the hardest of all noses in front in this last-16 tie?

There was no need to mention that 19 of the Reds' wins in all competitions this season have come by a solitary goal. Or, for that matter, to note Atleti's solitary clean sheet in their past five matches came in the initial encounter.

This Herculean, knife-edge tie was one played out somewhere in the deceptive gap between reality and reputation. Whose bluff would hold, who would blink with it all on the line?

For all the thoughts Atletico would come and shut up shop, they arguably should have extended their overall lead after 15 seconds. Diego Costa, the pantomime villain moving with all the nimbleness of the back end of a pantomime horse, slung a shot into the side netting after being played onside by Virgil van Dijk.

There were some unusually uncertain moments from Liverpool's defensive talisman as the rain began to lash down unhelpfully on an encounter where any slip could be terminal to quarter-final prospects.

Costa glanced another presentable opportunity wide but it swiftly became clear Atletico's key man would be an obstructive presence of a different kind.

Jan Oblak's goalkeeping display was of the very highest standard as he racked up nine saves, some of which at close quarters were truly exceptional. 

It was a time for Liverpool to chip painstakingly away against opponents bedded in for the long haul. The quickfire eviscerations of Roma and Manchester City in 2018 were never likely to be repeated.

But then came a recall from the most celebrated Anfield European night of them all. If it's a deficit against LaLiga opponents that needs wiping out, Georginio Wijnaldum is your man.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, enjoying his most productive Liverpool outing since thrashing in deliriously against City two years ago, sent a delicious cross arcing back towards the penalty spot.

Stefan Savic and Felipe acquitted themselves superbly throughout the tie, but it was tempting to wonder whether the departed Diego Godin would have allowed Wijnaldum – toast of the unforgettable Barcelona heist – to power emphatically home.

The Netherlands midfielder was there again with a wonderful centre of his own for Roberto Firmino to finally edge the hosts in front during extra time. By that stage, Wijnaldum's goal felt like it belonged to another age. Bubbling, belching tension turned minutes into days before Saul Niguez's disallowed stoppage-time goal seemed to stop time altogether.

Sadio Mane had sought the movie action hero ending with a pair of overhead kicks but Firmino seemed to have landed the knockout blow. It looked like he was their Rocky, only for Adrian to cough up the decisive plot twist.

If Oblak's display was that of a goalkeeping grand master, Adrian looked every inch the number two, the bumbling apprentice. His scuffed, unnecessarily panicked clearance found a cool Joao Felix surveying the whole picture.

The Portuguese youngster, a child when the reputations being traded upon here were cast, slotted the ball to Marcos Llorente, who unerringly picked out the bottom corner.

"You'll Never Walk Alone," howled the Kop. And yet, Adrian could scarcely have appeared more solitary.

Audaciously, Atletico sprung from their robust shell once more, substitute Alvaro Morata this time assessing the scene. No one was thinking of Steven Gerrard against Olympiacos, Istanbul or anything from the Jurgen Klopp cannon. A new page to a different book was being written, with the unusually passive Van Dijk and Joe Gomez not daring to smear the wet ink.

Those chapters include Antoine Griezmann at the Allianz Arena and Chelsea collapsing at Stamford Bridge. The inimitable Diego Simeone the eloquent author of every one. Now, in Llorente – same crisp technique, same result, game over – he had his latest lead character to celebrate.

A fired-up Morata added a succinct footnote to another Anfield night of magic and memory, only this one will be eagerly told and retold in Madrid rather than Merseyside.

Diego Simeone has no plans to spring any surprises with his tactical approach in Atletico Madrid's crunch second-leg clash against Liverpool in the Champions League.

Atletico won the initial last-16 encounter 1-0, with Saul Niguez's early strike the difference at the Wanda Metropolitano as the holders suffered a rare loss.

The LaLiga side surrendered a 2-0 first-leg advantage against Juventus at the same stage of last season's competition, with head coach Simeone eager to avoid a repeat at Anfield on Wednesday. 

He conceded that surprise will not be a weapon at his disposal against the Premier League leaders, but the 49-year-old has confidence in his tried and tested methods that secured a path to the final in 2014 and 2016.

"Whether we can vary how we play, Liverpool will know pretty clearly how we are going to play," said Simeone.

"They know pretty much what our tactics are going to be going into the game after being here for eight years. If we start well, we have to keep it up.

"You know pretty much what I'll be doing, I don't think our line-up will be too far off what you think it will be.

"The game will demand that we are on our top form. We will see what sort of game we play and tactics we adopt. We think we can hurt them.

"There is a Plan B, of course. But if I tell you my plans for a game, it wouldn't be logical, would it?"

Reflecting on his side's exit at the hands of Juve, Simeone is hopeful of a more positive outcome this time around. 

"We couldn't play in Turin, they never let us compete," he said. "Hopefully [on Wednesday] they will let us compete and that will help us be competitive.

"Experiences in life always help you. But you have to make sure you don't repeat errors you have done before."

Atletico Madrid fans jeered Diego Simeone's decision to withdraw Joao Felix during Saturday's 2-2 draw with Sevilla but the coach explained he was under instruction to be "careful" with him.

Los Colchoneros missed out on the chance to usurp Sevilla and go third in LaLiga, as they struggled to break down their visitors after a thrilling first half.

Alvaro Morata's penalty and Joao Felix's deflected effort cancelled out Luuk de Jong's well-taken opener, before Lucas Ocampos' spot-kick – which he won – just before half-time earned Sevilla a deserved point.

With Atletico chasing a late win, the previously lively Joao Felix was taken off for former Sevilla winger Vitolo in the 80th minute, and the home fans seemed unimpressed by the alteration.

But Simeone stressed he felt it to be a necessary decision.

"We can't tell people that he felt overloaded in his calf," Simeone told reporters when asked to address the whistles that accompanied his withdrawal.

"The doctor told me to be careful with Joao because he was getting cramps, that's why the change came.

"That he scored a goal to make the people happy is normal, because he's from Atletico."

VAR attracted much attention during the match, as the two penalties came after lengthy reviews – Simeone felt the outcome of both incidents was fair.

"It ends up being more fair than unfair," he said. "I am far away from the play of the first penalty and very far for the second, so I cannot enter a summary.

"I don't think that the defining factor of the match was the VAR. It has been a good duel with two teams fighting for very high goals.

"We were two teams that have competed very well, and that will surely compete until the end for the Champions League [places]."

Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui was less impressed by the use of VAR, however, particularly in terms of how long it took for the final decisions to be communicated.

"I believe that the VAR should intervene when situations are white or black," he added. "If you are waiting three minutes to see if you are going to review the decision or not, then that play is not very clear.

"There are many browns [rather than black or white] in football. That is what I meant. It should only intervene when it is black or white, because it cannot take so long, also because of the rhythm of the match, it stops too much.

"It was a very nice match. He [the referee] can't stand around for four or five minutes."

Diego Simeone is convinced Joao Felix "can go far if he wants to" despite struggling in his first season at Atletico Madrid.

Joao Felix became Atletico's record signing when he arrived from Benfica for €126million in pre-season, coming in as Antoine Griezmann's replacement.

But the Portugal international's impact has not been as significant as expected, scoring just three goals in 19 LaLiga appearances, having also missed a chunk of the season through injury.

Atletico face a fight to qualify for a Champions League spot, as they sit fifth behind Getafe and Sevilla – their visitors on Saturday – in the battle for a top-four place.

Simeone remains a believer in Joao Felix's abilities and potential ahead of a crunch clash with Sevilla on Saturday.

"He started with great enthusiasm," Simeone told reporters on Friday. "He had two injuries that took him out of that continuity.

"He is looking for that continuity in the team again, that continuity we all need and expect from him.

"Hopefully he gets to where he suggested he could, because in the case of young boys it is a consequence of where one wants to go. If he wants to go far, he can."

Like Joao Felix, Diego Costa has also recently returned to fitness and could play a significant role in the final weeks of the season, with Simeone optimistic about the striker's condition.

"I see him growing, looking for his best state, training accordingly to want to improve," the Atleti coach continued.

"He was never a great header, his game was more direct, more vertical, more positional. He felt comfortable in the game [against Espanyol].

"I see him [getting] better. He could not show all this the other day, but it is a phase of his recovery and we can count on him."

The visit of Sevilla comes just four days before Atletico's Champions League last-16 second-leg clash with Liverpool at Anfield, where Los Colchoneros will start with a 1-0 lead.

But Simeone insists his one and only focus is the Sevilla match, knowing victory will move them back into the top four and above Julen Lopetegui's erratic side.

"We do not look five days ahead, only Sevilla," he said. "We have the need to make an important match. Sevilla is strong away from home, signed new players [in January] like Suso that give quality in attack.

"The importance of the match is clear. Sevilla is a dangerous team away from home - they move better with spaces for their fast players in attack. That's where they perform their game best.

"Both matches are important - we are excited. It's a football week, in which we prepare to reach important targets. We have a beautiful battle ahead."

Saul Niguez accepts Atletico Madrid need to find a way to resolve their issues away from home after drawing 1-1 at rock-bottom Espanyol in LaLiga on Sunday.

Saul equalised with a stunning strike at the start of the second half after an early Stefan Savic own goal had put Espanyol in front.

Jan Oblak tipped a Victor Sanchez strike against the crossbar with a fine save to ensure Atletico secured a point.

The result means Atletico have won just one of their past 10 away matches in the league, leaving them well behind Barcelona and Real Madrid, and Niguez says they must raise their game on the road.

"It's taking a lot this year to win away from home," he told Movistar. "The support of our fans at home shows a lot.

"We must learn. The days go by and we must learn that many points can be gathered away from home."

Diego Simeone also addressed Atletico's poor away form, though he seemed relaxed and confident they will turn it around.

"We have to win away from home," he said. "We care about the game we have in the Wanda Metropolitano and then we will take care of winning the games that we have away from home.

"When the matches start, we try to win three points. In these last matches [against Valencia, Granada, Villarreal and Espanyol], we have won two and drawn two.

"We are giving the maximum - we hope it will catch up with us. To enter Champions League or save yourself [from relegation], you need to give everything to compete."

Diego Simeone was happy with the way Atletico Madrid stuck together following a tough January, claiming all teams have to weather difficult periods.

Atleti endured a five-match winless run in all competitions between January 12 and February 1, a stretch that was bookended by derby defeats to Real Madrid.

However, Simeone remained in charge and his side are unbeaten in four since, enjoying three victories - including a 1-0 defeat of Liverpool in their Champions League last-16 first leg.

The Atleti coach was not looking for excuses as he reflected on the team's previous struggles on Saturday, although he suggested such spells were to be expected.

"When you are planning a new season, you know there might be difficult and complex times like the ones we've been through," Simeone told a news conference ahead of Sunday's clash with Espanyol.

"For every team, there is a different part of the season where, because of injuries or bad results, they are in a difficult moment.

"I know it is just a phase of the season. We have to keep the balance and strength, be patient and hold together during those bad moments."

This week's opponents Espanyol are bottom of LaLiga, but Simeone is expecting a tough test for fourth-place Atleti.

"We are fighting for different objectives but a victory is important for both teams," he said. "When it comes to this part of the season, the needs are very important for both teams.

"I know it will be an intense, hard match, with a lot of contact in the midfield. The little details will decide which way the match goes."

Atleti's game is not the only clash between sides from Madrid and Barcelona this weekend, with El Clasico kicking off five hours later on Sunday.

However, with both Madrid and Barcelona well clear of third place, Simeone insists he has no interest in the match as his sole focus is on Espanyol.

"I don't even think about it," he said. "We're only thinking about our game against Espanyol and about our job, which is La Liga and getting the points we need."

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