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(SPORTS MAX) Atletico Madrid are champions of Spain again after holding off heavyweight pair Real Madrid and Barcelona in the closing stages to win their second LaLiga crown in eight seasons.
Atleti beat Real Valladolid 2-1 on Saturday to finish two points above Madrid – the only side that could catch them heading into the final round of games after Barca lost ground.
Diego Simeone’s men moved into top spot with a 4-0 win over Cadiz on November 7 and, despite some inconsistency over the past two months, they have stayed there ever since.
With the help of Opta, we took a look at the numbers behind Los Colchoneros’ latest triumph.
ATLETI BREAK MADRID-BARCA STRONGHOLD
Atleti have now been crowned champions of Spain 11 times – three of those in the last 43 years – which is third only to perennial winners Real Madrid (34 titles) and Barcelona (26).
Athletic Bilbao are next on the list with eight titles to their name, while Valencia have come out on top on six occasions.
Indeed, Simeone’s charges are the only side other than Madrid or Barca to finish at the summit of Spain’s top flight in the past 16 years, doing so this season and in 2013-14.
Atletico have now claimed the title in at least one season in eight of the last 10 decades – only in the 1920s and 1980s did they fail to do so.
DESERVED TITLE WINNERS
Atletico have spent 30 matchdays on top of the table, despite only stringing together successive wins on a couple of occasions since the end of January.
They won 26, drew eight and lost four of their 38 matches to end the season with 86 points – their longest winning run being the eight strung together between December 19 and January 31.
It is the 10th time Atleti’s fate has gone down to the final day of the season, most dramatically of all in 2014 when drawing away at Barca to hold off their title rivals.
That season, incidentally, Simeone’s side spent 11 matchdays alone at the top of the table.
THE CHANGING FACE OF ATELTICO
Another interesting aspect of Atletico’s title success is that this is the first season they have averaged more than 50 per cent possession in the league under Simeone.
They have averaged 52.02 per cent possession in LaLiga in 2020-21, which compares to 48.75 per cent in the season they last finished top, and is an increase on the 47.86 per cent they managed last season when finishing 17 points off top spot.
Increased possession has led to a better balance, too, with Atletico scoring 67 goals this season, which is the joint-third most they have mustered in Simeone’s nine seasons at the helm, alongside 2014-15 and behind 2013-14 (77) and 2016-17 (70).
The 25 goals they have conceded, meanwhile, is their fourth-best return over that time, their best season in that regard being the 18 goals shipped in 2015-16.
OBLAK, SUAREZ AND LLORENTE KEY TO SUCCESS
As Simeone has himself repeatedly pointed out, this has once again been a collective effort from Atletico.
However, there is no doubt that this latest title triumph would not have been possible if not for certain individuals – none more so than Luis Suarez, who joined from Barcelona at the start of the season for a small fee.
The Uruguay international scored comeback-clinching goals for Atletico in their final two games of the season and won 21 points for his side in total – more than any other player in the division – with his 21 goals.
Indeed, only Radamel Falcao in 2011-12 (24 goals) and Antoine Griezmann in 2014-15 (22) have scored more goals in their first season at the club in the 21st century.
At the opposite end, goalkeeper Jan Oblak made 103 saves from the 125 shots faced in LaLiga this season – an 80 per cent save rate, the best percentage of any keeper in Europe’s top five leagues among those to have played at least three times.
Marcos Llorente is another deserving of special recognition, having played a direct part in 23 LaLiga goals – 12 of his own and a further 11 assists – a tally that is bettered by just Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes (30) among midfielders in Europe’s top leagues.
His 12 goals came from an expected goals (xG) return of 3.4 – a difference of 8.6 – which is the biggest differential between xG and actual goals of any player in the big five leagues bar Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski (41 goals from an xG of 32.3).