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Friday, May 16, 2014

The Sports Thread/La Liga Finale Runthrough Thread For 5/16/14: Come Too Far For Nothing (First Version)

Photos from Atletico's press conference

With no proper reasoning why the Malaga-Levante match was played on a Friday night to close their seasons, the 2013-2014 La Liga campaign has its finale weekend, where the leagues MVP Atletico Madrid may somehow have nothing to show for their historic season. A loss to Barcelona tomorrow in the competition's dramatic last chapter would be about as unkind as any Suarez's bite.

Atletico have clearly felt the pressure and fatigue of going into the last weeks of the season with multiple trophies to play for. They couldn't get anything past Keylor Navas and almost were dealt the same devastating blow against Willy Caballero last week, while their own ace netminder Tobias Courtois' gaffe to give Malaga the opener belied the unfamiliar May tension surrounding Madrid's unglamorous big club.  

Make no mistake, Atletico have been a Godsend to a league that couldn't tolerate another season of "Big 2" duopoly being poisonous. Despite Sevilla winning the Europa League and a respectable effort from Valencia to reach the semifinals, the great Spanish league is still financially a contest between the giants of Real Madrid and Barcelona. Next season, Atletico are already guaranteed to be weaken once more, losing their best players for yet another season (Courtois returning to Chelsea while Diego Costa seems bound to go to Stamford Bridge as well), a financial luxury the Big 2 never have to worry about.

(Although it speaks to the greatest that Diego Simeone has exhibited in his tenure with Atletico, it would take another magical season of Herculean managing and fortuitous favors to be able to replace those two like he has been able to replace Falcao this campaign.)  

Both Real and Barcelona's continued persistence (as well as the LPF, Mediapro and main sponsor BBVA banks' constant disturbing silence) to keep the lion share of the league's TV money continues to be a major dark cloud on a league that certainly doesn't refuse to call itself the "best league in the world." It really is kind of a hilarious irony considering how the Premier League long received chastisement throughout the global soccer community for boasting of such a phrase, but at least they have both a decent track record and financial stability for all of its clubs unlike what LPF and the Big 2 have allowed. Yet, no major uproar has been produced by those same English critics.

Even with the usual fiscal disadvantages, Atletico have allowed Real and Barcelona partisans to repeatedly mention how "We're more than a two team league" as this spring has developed. They have given the league the rare opportunity to be fully bold in mentioning it does have depth despite being a year removed from its worst showing in Europe as a collective whole.  Without Atletico's "more than 3rd place brilliance", it would be the same argument held up against it, and it would possibly lead to the league demanding that it now be run not by just Los Blancos or the Catalan giants.

The fair result to culminate La Liga's season (and its representation in the Champions League this campaign) would be for Atletico not to suffer a crushing defeat that may easily linger into the showdown in Lisbon with their bitter crosstown rival next weekend. A loss to a Barcelona side as undeserving of any trophy since the Rijkaard days would amp up the pressure on Simeone's squad to prevent a wonderful season going for naught. A scenario that shouldn't be the case considering how the Real Madrid community throughout the entire planet have, are, and will be on pins and needles desperate for La Decima to finally arrive.

But Real, even with the massive despair their fans will feel if their European Cup drought does not end at the hands of their little brothers, will always have firm chances to still win the Champions League and La Liga. For Atletico, the opposite is the case, as they may never have a better chance to win either trophy (or both) for a long time. Maybe even longer than the 18 years they last won Spain's top flight domestic league, especially if the Big 2 continue to emulate the economy inequality crisis of the haves and have nots throughout EspaƱa (and really now, throughout the world).

Atletico Madrid has given the Spanish soccer fan and the LFP almost everything this season. It would be so very cruel if they received nothing back for it in return. 
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