Atletico Madrid: Why are Simeone's Anfield heroes falling short in La Liga?

Diego Simeone masterminded another memorable Champions League night for Atletico Madrid at Anfield but the club is off the pace in La Liga.

Diego Simeone

Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid is currently on the sixth spot in the La Liga table with 11 matches to go.   -  Getty Images

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 the club a compelling and legitimate heavyweight of European football in the modern era – was put to Simeone, he offered his own interpretation.

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"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.

La Liga 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 its full seasons under Simeone, dating back to 2012-13, Atletico has never collected fewer points after 27 games than the 45 it has this time around.

The side's next lowest was 52 points heading into the final stretch of 2016-17, where it 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 its locker?

Atletico still relies 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.

RELATED| Simeone hails Atletico keeper Oblak after dethroning Liverpool

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

A haul of 31 La Liga goals is Atleti's lowest at this stage of a season for 10 years. In fact, it has only scored 31 or fewer four times in its 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 La Liga 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.

Trigger-happy Morata

An unusually fired-up Alvaro Morata was on hand to score the winner on the night against Liverpool and spark those enduring celebrations. Life has not always been so enjoyable at Atleti for the Spain striker but he is the club's top scorer in La Liga this season with eight goals.

RELATED| Simeone hopeful Morata is back on the goal trail for Atletico

Morata's best overall campaign in Spain's top flight came when he scored 15 for Real Madrid in 26 2016-17 appearances. If there is disappointment regarding his overall numbers not being better, then it is not for the want of trying. Only Iago Aspas (30) has attempted more shots on target than Morata (27) this term.

In terms of the supply line, Angel Correa leads the way with six assists, needing just two to equal his best in Atletico colours from 2016-17.

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