Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said last week that 100 points would be required to secure this season’s La Liga title. At the halfway stage, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid both have exactly 50 apiece, with Ancelotti’s men just three points behind the two frontrunners. The race for the Spanish championship continues to be a three-horse one, and is all the more entertaining as a result.
The form of Atletico Madrid has surprised many, but Diego Simeone has instilled a steely edge into a hard-working squad of players.
Crucially, in 19-goal Diego Costa, he has a reliable hitman who is lethal in front of goal and has the ability to punish defences. Supplemented by eight from David Villa, Simeone has a striking partnership at least matching Barca’s front three.
On the other hand, Saturday’s goalless draw against Barca saw a more attritional Atleti, soaking up the pressure exerted by their opponents and relying on a counter-attacking approach.
Simeone has been blessed with a settled line up for most of the campaign and that continuity has proved a great asset.
It does, however, beg the question of whether he has the depth of resource that Ancelotti and Martino have available.
Last season, Atleti maintained second place, albeit at a far greater distance behind Barca, until week 27, when they were overtaken by Real Madrid.
This time, Simeone is not playing catch-up and his men have matched Martino’s every inch of the way, though time will tell whether they are equipped to go the distance.
This weekend they face another tough challenge in the shape of a Sevilla side who are unbeaten in seven Liga matches but Simeone believes they are up to the task.
"We have a team that responds at important moments," he said.
"You need to have a team of men that are able to deal with difficult situations against top rivals.
"I would like to say thanks to all my players. There is not one that doesn't work hard."
Opta head-to-head stats
Opta match facts
- Sevilla have failed to win any of their last eight meetings with Atletico Madrid in all competitions (D4 L4).
- Atleti have won their last three meetings with the Andalusian side; they have never won four in a row in La Liga.
- On the last occasion Atletico Madrid won the league (95/96), Sevilla were the first team to beat them on their own ground (1-0).
- Los Colchoneros just said goodbye to a run of nine straight home wins, however they are still unbeaten in 11 (W9 D2).
- Los Nervionenses, unbeaten in four on the road (W3 D1), have scored in nine successive away league games for the first time since 1995.
- Last season, Sevilla were shown five red cards in all competitions when playing in Manzanares.
- Ivan Rakitic scored his first La Liga goal away from the Sanchez Pizjuan at the Vicente Calderon.
- Only against Osasuna (nine) has Diego Costa scored more goals than he has against Sevilla (six) in La Liga.
- Atletico Madrid have benefited from a league-high two own goals this season.
- Sevilla have received a league-high 62 yellow cards this term.
European matches covered live on site this weekend