Atletico Madrid have a chance to take advantage of a topsy-turvy La Liga campaign when they host champions Barcelona on Saturday with the chance to take top spot this weekend despite their own patchy form.
Diego Simeone’s side are just a point behind leaders Barca despite having drawn five times and lost once, together as many matches as they have won. They are battling to overtake Barca alongside Sevilla and surprise package Alaves, who are both level on 23 points with Atleti.
Alaves, promoted in 2016, finished 14th last term but will go top if they win away at Leganes on Friday night, while Sevilla could potentially be leaders on Sunday night despite languishing in 13th place in September.
Even Real Madrid are in touch, just four points back despite having gone more than eight hours without a goal at one point and having been without a permanent coach for two weeks before Santiago Solari was upgraded from interim to full-time boss.
This season every time a challenger has clicked into gear they seem to click out again, in turn offering fresh impetus to their stumbling rivals around them.
Barca were verging on crisis in September before reeling off six wins and a draw away at Valencia. Then they were blown away by Real Betis, flattered even by the 4-3 scoreline.
“We have managed to play the way we want against the big teams, but against other teams with less potential we have not,” defender Gerard Pique said.
“If we want to win titles we have to be strong against everyone, the difficult ones and everyone else.”
Atletico may have put a miserable start behind them but last month, they suffered their heaviest defeat under Diego Simeone, a 4-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund. Before the international break, they needed two goals in the last 10 minutes to beat Athletic Bilbao.