Are Diego Simeone's Atlético Madrid becoming 'the new Osasuna'?

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To the those still finding their way around la Liga, Osasuna are constantly referred to in Spain as a very ‘British’ team.

It is a description that is simultaneously both complimentary and insulting to Her Majesty’s sporting honour. It praises the ‘raw and honest’ qualities of the British game and of the Pamplona club, as well as its passionate and ever-so-slightly bonkers crowd. There is also the strong and snooty implication that British football is violent, peppered with long balls and packed with ankle-smashing tackles, which is a fairly apt description of how Osasuna go about their football business.

For those who wonder if Valencia are ready for Stoke in their upcoming Europa League clash, or whether Barcelona could transfer their fancy pants game from la Primera to the Potteries, watching 90 minutes of a fixture featuring Osasuna will provide a good insight. It’s the closest the beautiful game gets to cage fighting.

About a month ago, a positively flimsy Atlético Madrid would have been smashed to smithereens at Osasuna, after all, the side had yet to win away all season and Osasuna are notoriously tough to beat at home. But then Diego Simeone - a tough-tackling, tough-talking, downright scary midfielder back in the day - took over as manager, and is starting to transfer some of those qualities to his new side.

Despite only taking over at the Vicente Calderón at the end of December, the Argentinean coach has transformed Atlético Madrid into the mirror image of himself, a team with the emphasis on physicality rather than flair, despite the talent of players such as Diego, Arda Turan and Falcao in the ranks.

Under the stewardship of Simeone, the Rojiblancos have managed a draw and three wins and have yet to concede a goal, a record that has moved Atleti into seventh, two points from the Champions League places, a position that was completely unthinkable at Christmas. The last of those victories came on a cold and frosty Monday night in Pamplona in front of Osasuna’s usual baying crowd.

In a match of few chances, Atlético’s goal in the 1-0 victory came from Diego Godín in a corner move that saw the visitors make sure the ball went in by any means necessary. At the other end, the back four withstood Osasuna’s usual ferocity and physicality.

“Courtois showed in a ‘British’ ground that he’s ready for the Premier League,” purred an admiring Kiko Narvaez in AS, on the keeper currently on loan from Chelsea.

José Luis Mendilibar, Osasuna’s gruff manager, could do nothing but admire the new buff, bludgeoning Atlético, despite the defeat. “Atlético beat us in intensity and aggression.”

The victory puts Atlético back on track to achieve their main goal this season - Champions League football, which in turn will help fight off the financial crisis they are currently embroiled in after years of hirings, firings and terrible signings. It also gave another indication that, despite Simeone’s ways being a little basic and a mix between Dave Bassett and Kevin Keegan, they are getting results.

“(After the game) the Atlético players embraced as if Charlize Theron had promised them a date with her ten twin sisters,” noted Iñako Díaz-Guerra in his match report in AS.

LLL was hoping - against all odds, of course - that’s Atlético’s incredible and admirable rebirth might see the side sneaking an appearance on the front page of either of the Madrid papers on Tuesday morning, considering there isn’t too much else going on in Mordor this week.

Sadly, it was not to be with Real Madrid and José Mourinho still dominating the landscape. And that’s a big, old shame as its the club’s neighbours who are the true big story in the Spanish capital at the moment. And for once, it’s for the right reasons.