As Arsenal exited the Champions League 3-1 to Bayern Munich, at the Vicente Calderon in Madrid Atletico Madrid destroyed Italian giants AC Milan 4-1 to win their Champions League last-16 tie 5-1 on aggregate.
The Spanish side were outstanding as they were just too good for Clarence Seedorf’s Italian side.
Atleti have been superb all season in both the Champions League and La Liga and are in with a real chance of claiming both trophies.
Atletico Madrid will head into the last eight of Europe’s elite competition in the knowledge that they are the only unbeaten team left in the Champions League.
Atletico’s highly-rated Brazil-born Spanish international Diego Costa found the net twice in last night’s victory to take his tally for the season to 27 goals in all competitions.
Costa opened the scoring with a fantastic effort, which was the striker’s sixth goal in the competition in just five appearances. The last player to have achieved that feat was Arsenal legend Thierry Henry. Costa is starting to look like the prolific striker that a host of top European teams are looking for.
His performances in the last 18 months have attracted interest from some of the Premier League big boys. The likes of Chelsea and Arsenal have been linked with a move for the newly-capped Spanish international.
Costa has a release clause of £32million in his contract. Chelsea and Arsenal are both in need of a world-class striker and Costa is fast proving he is just that. Prior to last season the striker was an enigma.
However, it was widely accepted that Costa had talent, but struggled to prove it because of his temperament. Costa now seems in the right frame of mind to be become a truly great player, after seven years at Atletico and numerous loan spells in both Spain and Portugal.
Whether Costa will be at Atletico Madrid much longer is debatable, but the 25-year-old may not have to move away from Atletico to gain success, as Los Rojiblancos look well placed to challenge at home and abroad for silverware.
One of the other main men behind Atleti’s success this season is Argentine boss Diego Simeone. In three years the Argentine has not just brought stability to Atletico, he has turned them into a unit capable of competing with the best in Spain.
Simeone firstly made Atletico hard to beat and then he brought out the best in the likes of Costa, Raul Garcia and signed Turkish playmaker Arda Turan, who has been crucial to team’s creativity this season.
Simeone has inspired Atletico Madrid to a level that they have not been at for more than a decade. It is a major achievement for Atleti to be in the quarter-finals of the Champions League and also just three points behind city-rivals Real Madrid at the top of La Liga.
Simeone’s has the ability to create a team that is more than the sum of its parts, which is what good managers do. The Argentine is now reportedly also attracting interest from elsewhere and is now expected to go right to the top of his trade.
Atletico have a formidable home record in European football, having won 16 out of their last 17 games at the Vicente Calderon. The Calderon has become a fortress this season and I doubt many teams will fancy a trip to face them on home soil.
Atletico will be not be fazed by many of the teams remaining in the competition. Arch-rivals Real Madrid are one of the favourites for the trophy, but Simeone’s side have taken four points off Los Blancos this season, winning at the Bernabeu and coming within a few minutes of victory at the Calderon.
The side from the Spanish capital have drawn all three of their games with Barcelona this season, two in the Super Cup and one in La Liga. Barcelona are also one of the favourites to claim the trophy. The team that maybe offers Atletico the biggest challenge would be European champions Bayern Munich.
However, as Arsenal showed in the quarter-finals the German side like any side have weaknesses and Simeone’s side have the quality to worry any of the remaining teams in the competition.
For too long Atletico Madrid have underachieved and lived in the shadow of arch-rivals Real. Maybe this season is the one that sees Atletico emerges from the shadows and fulfils their destiny. Los Rojiblancos are odds of 12/1 to win the Champions League; they may not be a terrible bet at those odds.
Could Atletico Madrid win the Champions League?