Grass getting greener for Atlético

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Plopped outside on the blog’s feeble excuse for a terrace - so small just one creaky chair and a daring volunteer can fit on it, if they are not overly afraid of heights - is an object that is football-related but will never play a meaningful role in the game, ever again.

No, La Liga Loca is not allowing Kaká to squat on its balconette - although to be fair, the mystery item spread out on the blog’s terrace can be described as a fairly useless sod.

But in this case it is in the turf sense, as LLL is tenderly nurturing a piece of the old Vicente Calderón pitch that was rescued from the ground by its Atlético Madrid insider over the summer after being trampled on by tens of thousands of Muse fans.

And for those of a curious bent, it happened after a concert by the falsetto-flaunting band in June rather than being due to a subliminal instruction tucked away in the lyrics of Knights of Cydonia for followers to destroy the pitch of Madrid’s third best team.

If this particular patch of grass had any kind of connection to the club even a year ago, it would surely have withered away over the summer or perhaps turned a peculiar colour before giving off a whiffy gas causing nausea and unpleasantness from anyone who went near it.

Instead, this lingering lump is resilient, tough and very much alive. And perhaps it is a sign of the new way of the world in what has traditionally been la Liga’s comedy club.

A year ago, pretty much everyone who keeps a beady eye on la Primera was expecting the then Atleti coach, Abel Resino, to be fired by the end of 2009, for both Forlán and Kun Aguero to be sold, and for the club to make a complete Maniche’s dinner of their Champions League campaign.

As it turned out, two of those expectations came true but there was to be a happy ending to what was largely a woeful year with Quique Sánchez Flores taking over from the dead man-waking Resino in October to help lead the club through a worst ever display by a Spanish side in the CL - a display that was rewarded by passage to the Europa League and Atleti sneaking through to a final victory against Fulham.

Atlético celebrate glory...hang on, what?!

This remarkable reversal of fortune sees a very different state of affairs to the norm at Atleti a fortnight before the season starts. Whilst some things have not changed - the same dysfunctional pair of Enrique Cerezo and Miguel Angel Gil are in control of the club through means that are still legally dubious but largely overlooked - there is a air of stability and dare the blog say it, serenity ahead of the campaign to come.

Normally, only those who had been routinely been hit by lumps of concrete falling from the roof of the crumbling Calderón could ever predict a top three...ok... this is la Liga... a third-place finish for Atlético Madrid in any given season.

But in the hazy heat of the summer, the blog is happy to declare this to be a glorious year for the Rojiblancos. And not just because traditional rivals such as Sevilla and Valencia are going to suck harder than nuclear-powered Dysons, this season, either.

For the first time since since the people of Andalusia discovered fire (around 1984), Atleti have a manager in the form of the eye-liner clad Quique that everyone seems to approve off - even José Antonio Reyes, which is almost unheard of with the club’s eternally-whining winger.

Kun Agüero and Diego Forlán look like they will be staying put - and not entirely unhappy about the prospect either - although there is no sign that they are ever going to become firm friends with the pair apparently being the Andrew Cole and Teddy Sheringham of la Liga.

What’s more, Atleti appear to have stumbled upon a decent defense, which is great for the club’s forehead slapping supporters but very bad indeed for everyone else in Spain who enjoys a decent giggle of a weekend - something that isn’t likely to happen through watching any of the country’s desperately dire sitcoms.

The hapless Pablo Ibañez has set sail for West Bromwich, while Luis Perea will most probably be restricted to the bench where he can do considerably less damage. In their place in the centre of the defence will be the ever-improving (and desperate to play for Chelsea) Alvaro Dominguez and the freshly-purchased Diego Godín from Villarreal.

Tomas Ujfalusi will continue at right-back - unless Atleti can get hold of Fanni from the French league - but the real star move of the summer for Atlético was the acquisition of the supremely brilliant left-back, Filipe Luis, who joins from Deportivo.

This is not to say that there aren’t areas of concern for Quique to ponder while clad in his quilted smoking jacket of an evening. Argentinean winger, Salvio, has yet to prove he’s anything more than an overpriced bet-wetting Mummy’s boy. There is also the very real danger that Simao will insist on sitting tight until his contract runs out in June and continue to prove himself one of the most useless signings by any side ever.

But despite these drawbacks it seems that the Copa del Rey final appearance - which ended in defeat to Sevilla - and the Europa League victory has seen Atlético both grow up and a pair.

And that’s why La Liga Loca is willing to take heed of the smallest of signs given by a tenacious lump of turf on its terrace and predict a sensational season for Atlético Madrid.

After all, what can possibly go wrong?

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