The "other" capital club sit level on points with leaders Barcelona in La Liga, but with Real Madrid likely to come back strongly, how long can they stay in the mix for the title?
Last season Atletico Madrid sauntered to an excellent Europa League win and finished 5th in La Liga. Diego Simeone achieved this having taken over the reins in December 2011, and his excellent run in charge of the club has continued this season.
Atletico have been irrepressible in the league, winning six and drawing one. They have scored 18 goals, only one less than Barcelona and four more than Real Madrid. They have claimed the Super Cup after thumping Chelsea, and have won both their Europa league matches without conceding. Finally, in Falcao they have arguably the best out and out striker in the world.
All of this looks pretty good for a title run, however no-one really considers them contenders. There are two main reasons for this, and those reasons drew 2-2 on Sunday night at the Camp Nou.
Given the quality of Barcelona and Real Madrid it's very difficult to see how Atletico could sustain a title challenge. Last year Real Madrid dropped only 14 points as they won the league. This year Barcelona have the same number of points as Atletico, but have been quite scrappy so far, and will likely improve even further.
Atletico have been playing out of their skin, and it's hard to see them keeping that up all year, however if they hang onto Falcao, then they have a chance.
However their last two wins have shown that they can win tight matches. The 1-0 win away at Espanyol was achieved without Falcao, the 2-1 win last the weekend was against third-placed Malaga, who are in superb form of their own. The latter win does show how vital Falcao will be, as the Colombian can win any game he plays in. When Atletico's form drops, as it surely must, he will be the key to keeping them in matches.
If he picks up a long term injury, or Atletico do the unthinkable and sell him in January, then there can't be any hope a of a title charge. With him in the side you can see a lot of losses and draws converted into draws and wins.
Atletico have been a very good side for a long time without domestic success, their two Europa League wins in three years demonstrates their quality. It would be great to see them mount a real challenge in La Liga, if only to give another dimension to the league as a whole, and show that footballing life exists beyond the Bernabeu and the Camp Nou.
This challenge is surely far greater for Falcao than moving to Stamford Bridge, and while the Spaniards have their financial troubles, winning La Liga and qualifying for the Champions League would alleviate them, and the Colombian striker may not want to leave halfway through the season if the club are still riding high in January.
image: © chilangoco