Atletico Madrid Enjoys Turning-Point Game, But is it Already Too Late?

Atletico Madrid has finally started to look like itself, but is it already too late in both La Liga and the Champions League?
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For much of this season, Atletico Madrid have appeared stunted and impotent, but on Saturday evening, things felt different. Not least because they hit five goals, swatting aside a tame Levante aside with authority and confidence.

It was the type of dominating performance that has been patently lacking this campaign. Tellingly, Atletico have scored 21 goals in La Liga - 10 of them have come in two games, against Las Palmas and last weekend against Levante.

Diego Simeone's side had been profligate and without any real creativity, struggling to find the net with any regularity. Antoine Griezmann was out of form - so too were the other options in attack - and wins were increasingly hard to come by.

That was until Saturday, an emphatic victory that seemed almost like a release of pent-up frustration. Finally, they were free-flowing and fluid, and perhaps most importantly, Griezmann seemed to be revitalized.

"Today the team's potential in attack, above all with Griezmann and Gameiro, was present in full," said Simeone, quoted by ESPN. "The forwards are more relaxed, and that is renewing their spirits, and bringing positive energy."

There were positive signs immediately before the Levante win, too. Atletico were impressive against Roma in a 2-0 victory, although it's more than likely too little too late for their Champions League aspirations.

It may well also be too late for any sort of title challenge in La Liga. Atletico remain unbeaten, but a plethora of draws has left them eight points behind league leaders Barcelona, and four back from second-placed Valencia.

Still, it will be a welcome relief for everyone associated with the club to see signs of a significant improvement. The season is by no means dead yet; there is plenty still to play for and plenty still to be optimistic about.

Atletico will be boosted in January by the arrival of Diego Costa and the return from Las Palmas of Vitolo. Both will provide options in attack, and with suggestions that Griezmann and Gameiro have hit form, could make playing Los Colchoneros an imposing prospect.

Simeone's reliable defensive foundations are already in place and will continue to be, and there will be considerably less pressure on the shoulders of Griezmann. 

It could leave the futures of Luciano Vietto and Angel Correa in jeopardy, given their repeatedly underwhelming displays this season. The duo have been handed more opportunities, but both have proved inconsistent.

It remains clear that Simeone still has issues to iron out. A 5-0 win does not necessarily mean that all is suddenly well, as was proved with the hammering of Las Palmas in the second game of the season.

But it will certainly have given Atletico a welcome confidence boost. They have been criticized and doubted - often with good reason - but their inherent resilience appears to have seen them through the roughest of patches, and still unbeaten domestically.

"These last three or four games the team has been improving, in intensity and pressing and creating chances," Simeone said.

"This will help us to keep improving. There are still many games to play."