Peaking at the climax

Simeone, always in black.
Simeone, always in black. / EFE
  • With the old guard now finding form, the end to the Spanish league season is set to be an exciting one

It's a week when Diego Simeone, Ronald Koeman and Zinedine Zidane will be having a lie in, putting their feet up, catching a little sunshine, and preparing for the grand finale to this exhausting season.

With their players trotting the globe, the coaches of Atlético, Barcelona and Real Madrid will be drawing up game plans for the last surge.

It's now tighter at the top of La Liga. Atlético have led the race for most of the season as Barcelona rebuilt and Real Madrid struggled to find consistency. But as the big two have found form, Atleti have proven fallible in recent weeks so there is a theory that the league has plenty of life left in it.

Here's my spoiler: Atleti will win the league, Barcelona lift the Copa del Rey and there's a strong chance Real will become champions of Europe again. All bold predictions.

Let's take Atlético first. There's a reason Simeone wears the same all black outfit for every game. With him there are no shades of grey, no splashes of colour. This reflects in his team. You know exactly what you are going to get.

For me, he has the best goalkeeper in the world. But Jan Oblak apart, I doubt that any of his outfield players would interest Real or Barça. They are a team, not a collection of individuals. Simeone leads them pragmatically. When the media launched an inquest following the Champions League defeat to Chelsea, the Argentinian responded with honesty.

"We are not looking for excuses," he said. "We were beaten by a better team."

Simeone's side is built for endurance and that is why they are four points clear at the top of the table.

Their nearest rivals, Barcelona, are surging with 15 wins in an unbeaten run of 18 Liga matches. They've hit ten goals in the last two. Messi has weighed in with an incredible 16 goals in 11 league matches. Just digest those numbers.

Ronald Koeman has found a system to harness the talents of the younger players at his disposal which has broken with the traditional formation. In doing so he has brought the best out of Messi.

At a club which has been under a cloud, there is sunshine. I expect the run will continue and they will edge the cup final against Athletic but Atlético's durability will rightly win them the Spanish championship.

So where does that leave Real? When club football reconvenes, they have three mega games in eight days. The Champions League quarter-finals are wrapped around the Clásico.

It's been three years since they met Liverpool in the final. The 2021 team looks just like the 2018 team. Only Cristiano Ronaldo and Keylor Navas have departed. Only Vinicius, Fede Valverde and Ferland Mendy have been accepted into the old boys' club.

There's a simple reason Zidane has stuck with the old guard; they are simply superior to the players signed to replace them. In world football there are few better centre backs than Serhio Ramos; more balanced midfields than Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro; and Karim Benzema is in the form of his illustrious career.

So there we go, draw breath, sit back and enjoy the three major Spanish teams peaking at the climax of the campaign.