Going into El Clasico on Saturday night Barcelona were unprecedented favourites to lift the treble for the second consecutive season. Luis Enrique's side were nine points above Atletico in 2nd and ten points above their arch-rivals Real Madrid in third, that was until an 85th minute Cristiano Ronaldo goal sunk Barcelona's dreams and put the champagne on hold, for another couple of weeks at least.
The gap at the top of La Liga is now only six points with seven games to play, and while the media are focussing on whether Zinedine Zidane can make a remarkable comeback to win the league, Atletico Madrid and their stern defence-minded side have more than a chance of pegging back the six point gap.
What you may have missed this weekend was Atletico's comprehensive 5-1 drubbing of Real Betis. Former Liverpool striker Fernando Torres got the first before Antoine Griezmann picked up a brace, but the win wasn't about the strikers, it was about a new way of playing under Simeone.
So many times this season we have seen Atletico grind out one of two goal wins while Real Madrid and Barcelona are smashing teams for six. But this weekend was different, when they took the lead Simeone's men refused to sit back, they ramped up the pressure proving that they could deal with Real Betis' counter-attack.
Atletico Madrid's defensive record this season is indeed quite incredible, the red and whites have conceded just 15 league goals in 31 games, which compared to Barcelona's 26 and Real Madrid's 29, is not bad going at all.
The way in which Atletico could win the league, and maybe even knock Barcelona out of the Champions League, will be their ability to consistently combine their heralded defence with their attacking prowess. Griezmann has scored 26 goals this season and there is no doubt that he can perform on the big stage.
Barcelona will be hoping to bounce back with pride against Atletico following their humbling El Clasico defeat, but as seen in the past, a defeat in El Clasico usually spells a drop in form. Barca were on a record-breaking 39 game unbeaten run before Saturday's defeat at the Camp Nou and it could almost be forgiven to think that this Barca side are unbeatable.
However, we eventually began to see cracks in the elite central-defensive partnership of Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano, the two experienced defenders should not have allowed Cristiano Ronaldo space inside the box, especially due to the fact that Real Madrid were down to ten men.
🔊 Piqué: "We have to keep going. You can't always win and we are in a good position in all three competitions" #FCBlive— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 2, 2016
A victory, or even a draw at the Camp Nou for Atletico on Tuesday night could rile Barcelona enough to see the Catalan's go on a poor run of form until the end of the season. Luis Enrique was decidedly subdued in his post-match press conference, which could suggest that that Barcelona's much regarded team morale may finally be on the decline.
"It is painful to lose at home; had to happen some day. But we must move on, prepare for the Champions League, and it will be a very difficult game. We are still leading in La Liga, and we must keep pushing forward." The Barcelona manager told reporters.
Barca welcome Atletico to the Camp Nou on Tuesday in the Champions League quarter-final in what will be the first game in quite some time where Barca aren't considered obvious favourites. Luis Enrique will have a full-strength squad at his disposal, but will have to ensure his players' minds are right following Saturday's devastating defeat.