As we arrive into the middle of February, the Champions League starts again, and La Liga really starts to take shape.

Ahead of their clash against Juventus, Atletico Madrid could’ve done with the boost of a Madrid derby victory, but it wasn’t to be.

On the day they were beaten (1-3) by a better Real Madrid side, something Diego Simeone admitted after the match.

Yes, there were some controversial decisions that weren’t overturned by VAR, but the Rojiblancos also benefitted from that when Antoine Griezmann scored their equaliser, Angel Correa clearly having fouled Vinicius Junior in the build-up.

You win some, you lose some, and Simeone was again correct when he sought to move questions from journalists away from the VAR debate.

After Barcelona’s 1-1 draw against Athletic Club on Sunday night, Atleti find themselves just seven points behind the leaders at the end of week 23’s round of fixtures. With 15 games still to play and a visit to Camp Nou to come, it’s hardly an insurmountable tally.

Not to mention that Barca have Sevilla and Real Madrid to play over the course of the next three game weeks too, and Los Blancos have a couple of tricky fixtures themselves to overcome.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect for Simeone in the Madrid derby were that his side were second best to Real in a physical sense.

El Cholo has always prided himself on the way in which his team plays, and it has made them incredibly hard to beat.

Indeed, the defeat by Real was just their third in the league all season, and their fourth in all competitions. That’s hardly the form of a team that have nothing left to play for.

In fact, not having the Copa del Rey to concern themselves with could also work in their favour. Real host Barcelona at the end of the month for a place in the final, and no quarter will be asked or given in that match.

Or the league game that follows between the two sides at the Santiago Bernabeu just 72 hours later.

The Rojiblancos have shown their fighting spirit on numerous occasions before now, and their supporters can rest assured that the management team will get every last drop of fight out of them as we head into the business end of the campaign.

Real and Barcelona will slip up again at some point, so it’s imperative that Atleti take the fullest advantage. Even if it goes right to the wire.

With Alvaro Morata signed to boost their striking options, and the Spaniard showing how well he’s adapting to Atleti’s style already, that’s just one of many reasons to be optimistic.

Those who are writing Simeone’s side off already could end up looking more than a little foolish come May.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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