Football – Atletico Madrid fans celebrate winning La Liga – Madrid, Spain – May 22, 2021. Atletico Madrid fans celebrate winning La Liga. [REUTERS/Susana Vera]

LUIS SUAREZ SIGNS ON

Atletico Madrid have remained a top side since last winning the league in 2014 but had been lacking a proven goalscorer for some time.

Step forward Luis Suarez, who had been forced out of Barcelona and was able to join Atletico for only six million euros.

Suarez helped Atletico get off to a blinding start by scoring his first 12 goals with 18 shots and then hit winners over Osasuna and Real Valladolid to clinch the title.

GETTING ONE OVER BARCELONA

Suarez was unable to face Barca in November but Atletico still managed to beat the Catalans thanks to a counterattack goal from Yannick Carrasco.

It was the first time in more than 10 years that Atletico had beaten Barcelona in La Liga and the win gave them a tangible sense they had what it took to challenge the Catalans and champions Real Madrid.

BARCELONA BLOW THEIR BIG CHANCE

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Atletico’s charge to the title almost skidded to a halt in April following a defeat at Sevilla, a draw at Real Betis and another loss to Athletic Bilbao.

Barcelona, meanwhile, were gathering momentum after cutting a 13-point deficit down to two and had the chance to go top if they could just beat Granada.

Barca had won their previous 24 home games against Granada and looked set to storm to the top of the standings when Lionel Messi gave them the lead.

But they conceded twice in the second half to lose 2-1 and leave Atletico still standing at the top.

Football – La Liga Santander – FC Barcelona v Getafe – Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain – April 22, 2021. Barcelona’s Antoine Griezmann celebrates scoring their fifth goal with Lionel Messi. [REUTERS/Albert Gea]

THE VAR DECISION THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING

A goalless draw between Atletico and Barca left the title in Real Madrid’s hands when they faced Sevilla the next day, and the pendulum looked to be swinging their way when Karim Benzema earned a penalty.

Zinedine Zidane’s side were one kick away from taking control of the title race when the referee was told by his video assistant (VAR) to look at an earlier handball by Real’s Eder Militao.

The official over-ruled the penalty to instead award one to Sevilla and captain Ivan Rakitic converted to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.

Real snatched a draw in the end but a golden chance had gone.

FIDEL SPARES ATLETICO’S BLUSHES

Atletico have long been known as ‘the cursed ones’ since their 1974 European Cup final defeat to Bayern Munich but any historical bad luck seems to have been repaid this season.

Take what happened when they conceded a last-minute penalty when defending a 1-0 lead at struggling Elche in May.

Fidel Chaves had the chance to strike a huge blow to Atletico’s title hopes but sent his spot-kick against the post and Simeone’s side, yet again, clung on to their advantage. 

Football – La Liga Santander – Real Valladolid v Atletico Madrid – Estadio Jose Zorrilla, Valladolid, Spain – May 22, 2021. Atletico Madrid’s Luis Suarez scores their second goal. [REUTERS/Juan Medina]

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