As a supporter of both Liverpool FC and Atlético Madrid, the 2013/14 season was like nothing I’ve seen before. Last August, I’d never have predicted that Liverpool would challenge for the title and ultimately finish second, while Atléti would win La Liga and reach the Champions League.
Atlético was two minutes away from achieving the impossible – a La Liga and Champions League double. Having secured the league title away at Barcelona in the final round of the season, confidence was high heading to Lisbon for the clash with Real Madrid.
Arda Turan failed to recover from a hip injury sustained the week before and Diego Costa surprisingly started, only to be subbed inside 10 minutes – Atléti was already on the back foot from the start. Diego Simeone’s side, however, is never one to back away from a challenge and took the lead through Diego Godin in the 36th minute.
As the clock ticked over into injury time, Atlético was barely hanging on. When Sergio Ramos equalised in the 93rd minute, deep down I knew we’d lost it. Devastated by the late blow and exhausted from a league campaign which went down to the wire, los Rojiblancos had nothing left to give.
While it meant the season ended on a sour note, Atlético’s fans have a lot to smile about. Winning La Liga shows how strong and resilient Diego Simeone’s squad is, and how much belief there is around the club. Stan Collymore summed up Cholo’s leadership qualities nicely.
Loving Simeone. A man players want to run through brick walks for, they love him, trust him, believe him totally.
— Stan Collymore (@StanCollymore) May 24, 2014
If Simeone can keep the majority of this squad together, despite strong rumours linking Diego Costa with Chelsea, and bring in two to three players to strengthen the depth, then Atlético could enjoy many years at the top of Spanish and European football.
While Atlético had the league title to take away some of the pain of the Champions League loss, Liverpool’s failure to go on and win the league despite being well-placed to do so in the final stages of the season is still hard to take.
But the disappointment of failing to end a 24-year drought doesn’t linger for long, for the first time in a long time, there is a belief amongst the fans that the Reds are heading in the right direction. Like Simeone at Atlético, Brendan Rodgers has the full support and trust of the board, the squad and the fans.
The challenge for Rodgers is now to consolidate the spot in the Champions League and to do so, needs to recruit strongly in the summer transfer window – starting with the defence!
The old saying – strikers win you games, but defenders win you titles – couldn’t be truer in Liverpool’s case. Too often were points thrown away because goals were conceded due to poor defending. For example, uyou simply can’t lead a team 3-0 only to throw it away and draw 3-3, conceding three goals in nine minutes – as was the case when Liverpool visited Crystal Palace late in the season.
This was the key difference between Liverpool and Atlético this season and was the reason why one club won the league and why the other didn’t. Atlético’s back four of Filipe Luis, Diego Godin, Miranda and Juanfran, combined with Thibaut Courtois in goals was resolute all season and so often kept Atlético in games they would go on and win.
Mamadou Sakho had a decent first season at Liverpool, Daniel Agger struggled to perform consistently, as did Martin Skrtel, while Kolo Toure was never going to be the long-term solution. Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique simply aren’t good enough at full-back for a team contending for the title .
To compare the two sides, Atlético conceded just 26 goals across the 38-game La Liga campaign, Liverpool conceded 50 across the 38-game English Premier League season. Manchester City, who won the EPL title, shipped just 36 goals.
Atlético and Liverpool have the foundations in place to build upon heading into next season. Both have the opportunity to consolidate their remarkable seasons, but in order to do so need to recruit strongly to ensure they remain competitive.
Liverpool probably wouldn’t be able to replicate what it achieved this season with the same squad, improvements in defence and midfield are required to ensure it continues to maintain top four finished. Atlético needs to add to its depth and potentially find a replacement for Diego Costa.
I’ve enjoyed watching my teams this season, and have confidence they will continue to grow and compete for more silverware. Now to sit back and watch the summer transfer rumours pick up!