By Tim Stannard
Real Madrid face a must-win match against Granada to keep Diego Simeone under pressure at Atletico
Diego Simeone's dogged, decade-long, game-by-game, eyes-away-from-the prize approach to soccer might work in Atletico Madrid's favor over the next eleven days, as exasperating as it is to hear week-in, week-out.
While Atletico Madrid's beloved 'get the teeniest advantage in a game, hang-on-for-dear-life' approach has worked in two of the last three LaLiga matches - the other being a hang-on-for-dear-life goalless draw against Barcelona - it's a risky strategy for those two remaining games of this campaign to end all campaigns.
"It’s been a very tough season and it’s going to be tough until the end," said a dutiful Diego Simeone after the squeaky, stress-driven 2-1 victory against Real Sociedad on Wednesday. That toughness continues on Sunday at home to Osasuna - a club that may be comfy in mid-table but definitely refuses to go on mental vacation. The final match will be at a relegation-threatened Valladolid.
Despite these pessimistic predictions of pugilistic Primera power-struggles to come, Thursday does see Atletico bordering on getting really close to winning the league title for the first time since the 2013-14 season, to break the Barcelona-Real Madrid champions monopoly for only the second time since 2004.
An awful lot of those chances hinges on a very big game for Real Madrid today.
Real Madrid head to Granada with little defense
Thursday morning saw the Real Madrid players fly to the south of Spain to take on Granada. Coach Zizou's side is currently third in the LaLiga standings, five points off Atletico Madrid. However, a victory will take the team to within...hang on...er...two points from the top with two games to go.
One observation from watching the players board the plane is that there were not a lot of defenders in the squad. Just three first-team players in actual fact - Eder Militao, Nacho, Alvaro Odriozola and Miguel from the youth team.
So what can Real Madrid expect in Granada? Another tough game to challenge some very weary legs, apart from those belonging to Eden Hazard.
Granada's form has dropped off of late with three losses from four, but that single victory was in the Camp Nou. Granada also played as recently as Monday, but the side has goals in them there hills and even has a Luis Suarez up front as a bad omen.
Oh, the Granada collective has also woken up "with a smile on our faces" to really psyche out the visiting Real Madrid players.
Granada vs. Real Madrid gets underway live on beIN SPORTS from 3:50PM ET / 11:50AM PT. However, first up on the roster of games in LaLiga is a biggie as Valladolid host Villarreal - relegation candidate vs. Europa League candidate. The action gets underway on beIN SPORTS from 12:50PM ET / 9:50AM PT.
Monaco face the giant-killers of France
PSG are certainly living on the edge, Aerosmith-style these days. Their chances of winning Ligue 1 are very much hanging by a thread. For a few moments, so were the team's hopes in the Coupe de France before prevailing in a semifinal against Montpellier on penalties.
Next Wednesday's final could be against two remarkably contrasting teams who meet today not too far away from Switzerland. In one corner, it's Monaco. Tough but a known prospect. However, the other team is Rumilly Vallieres. Not a household name, but that's because they play in the fourth tier of the French league and hail from a hamlet of around 15,000 people.
Oh, the word 'play' is an exaggeration here, too. Because of a lockdown in France, Rumilly have taken to the pitch for just two games in two months, the previous matches in the Coupe de France that took the side to the semis on quite the magical story.
Rumilly Vallieres vs. Monaco is live for free on beIN XTRA from 3PM ET / 12PM PT.