INVASION! Ahead of the FC Porto vs Atletico Madrid game, Tim Stannard of FFT.com blog La Liga Loca crosses the border to describe the weirdness that is Atletico Madrid
The original mission the FourFourTwo bosses gave La Liga Loca was to deliver a careful, detailed and thoroughly thoughtful thesis of what Porto needed to do against AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid to win WednesdayÃ¢ÂÂs Champions League clash.
The initial two-word response Ã¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂTurn upÃ¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂ was deemed somewhat lacking in depth by the prissy, picky editors.
So as a compromise, the blog has been given permission to pick up its journalistic AK47 and blast the Rojiblancos into iddy-biddy pieces while assessing their chances in the midweek clash.
As well as being a football club from one of Madrid's grottier barrios Ã¢ÂÂ although the stadium is a 20-minute stroll from lovely La Latina Ã¢ÂÂ AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid forms an important part of the planetÃ¢ÂÂs Gaian consciousness.
It is an ancient institution that, like the tides, has its own rhythm, its own ebbs and flows.
ItÃ¢ÂÂs the Kate Bush of la Liga. Incas called an earlier incarnation of the club "The great sh*t one in the sky."
This being the time when summer turns to autumn, the skies darken and the wind blows in from the north, causing instant complaints of Ã¢ÂÂÃÂ¡que frio!Ã¢ÂÂ from thin-skinned MadridileÃÂ±os, Atleti are going through a totally crap phase. (The second phase of the current annual cycle is due in February).
During this time, the clubÃ¢ÂÂs footballers make Ipswich Town look good and supporters suddenly remember that their two owners, Enrique Cerezo and Miguel Angel Gil, are a pair of dysfunctional goons and perform laps of the stadium in their masses to remind them of this.
But then AtlÃÂ©tico pick up a few wins and all this is forgotten for the next four to five months.
Even by their lofty standards, AtlÃÂ©ticoÃ¢ÂÂs current league campaign has been little short of a disaster so far, with the side lying third from bottom of the table and still without a win.
Their Champions League start was even worse, with a goalless home draw against APOEL Nicosia in the Vicente CalderÃÂ³n.
The heart of the problem lies, as always, with the defence.
Although APOEL player Nuno Morais scoffed that Ã¢ÂÂUjfalusi and Pablo are the Achilles heels of AtletiÃ¢ÂÂ he may as well have named any of the mugs currently gifting goals to sides the length and breadth of Spain.
The mischievous work of a Real Madrid-supporting master of the Dark Arts Ã¢ÂÂ and believe us, there are an awful lot of those about Ã¢ÂÂ is the only rational explanation as to why defenders who are perfectly fine playing for someone else turn into dunder-headed cloggers when turning out for Atleti.
All season, the Atleti defenders have been left bothered and bewildered by offside traps, long balls or one-twos.
As a collective, they are so hair-pullingly horrendous that many fans are looking back with fondness to the days when Johnny Heitinga was around.
Unfortunately, Atleti have been made even weaker at the back with their Spanish under-21 keeper Sergio Asenjo far from home and facing the likes of Tahiti in an international tournament Ã¢ÂÂ leaving rookie Roberto to pick the balls out of the back of the net. Nine times in the last three games, in fact.
The clubÃ¢ÂÂs current central midfield pairing of Paulo AssunÃÂ§ao and Cleber Santana would be fine for a mediocre, mid-table team, but not for one with top-four aspirations.
It's always useful if your midfielders know what to do with a ball, but this less than dazzling duo can neither prevent it going past them - opposition players are often waved through and handed a lollipop - nor offer much to facilitate its movement in a forward direction.
The so called Fantastic Front Four Ã¢ÂÂ so-called by La Liga Loca last season, anyway Ã¢ÂÂ has let itself go a little over the past year, with left-winger Simao becoming an annoyingly inconsistent player and a total bottler when it comes to mixing it with opposition fullbacks.
The only thing Maxi, on the other flank, has offered to the Rojiblanco cause over the past year has been an equaliser against Valencia on Saturday night and a series of scowls.
Diego ForlÃÂ¡n and Kun AgÃÂ¼ero are pretty much the only thing that AtlÃÂ©tico have going for them.
And, once again, they will be asked to make up for the rest of the sideÃ¢ÂÂs inadequacies.
In last seasonÃ¢ÂÂs Champions League knock-out clash against Porto, AtlÃÂ©tico were torn a new one in the Vicente CalderÃÂ³n but escaped with a 2-2 draw, only to go out of the tournament after a goalless game in Portugal.
The same kind of treatment will be handed out again this time as Porto hurl hellfire and thunder at AtlÃÂ©tico's backpedalling backline.
But despite the terrible defence, the mediocre midfield and the failing forwards, AtlÃÂ©tico are still going to win. 3-0.
Because thatÃ¢ÂÂs exactly why Atleti are such a very special club and a genuine force of nature.
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