Football’s received wisdom dictates that a club moving to a new stadium will struggle in their new surroundings. The league campaign will falter, accompanied by early exits from domestic and European cup competitions.
The Rojiblancos refuse to be cowed by their new stadium, instead quickly turning it into a fortress, albeit one which has yet to carve out its own passionate atmosphere. It isn’t yet as intimidating as the Vincente Calderon.
As if any new home could be. On the banks of the Manzanares, perched above the M-30, Atleti’s spiritual home generated a wall of noise as the stands responded to the wild gesticulations of Diego Simeone as the Argentine prowled the touchline. The fans responded and mostly so did the team as they enjoy a period of sustained success which stands comparison with any in the club’s history.
But now it is gone; the Vicente Calderon is no more and as much as some of the Atletico faithful may feel the sorrow, the Wanda Metropolitano is now home. The naming rights belong to a Chinese company, formerly part-owners of the club, but who recently divested themselves of their shareholding.
The XI is on course for a strong first season in the ground. Second behind Barcelona, Atletico are unbeaten at home in La Liga. Chelsea and Sevilla won cup-ties but Atleti has resisted all visitors in the league, winning ten and drawing four, including their debut matches against Barcelona and Real Madrid.
In Europe, the Champions League campaign turned sour with Atleti finishing third in their group behind Roma and Chelsea. But Simeone and his men are no strangers to the Europa League and find themselves favourites to win, marginally ahead of Arsenal in the latest odds. They face Sporting Club de Portugal in the last eight and remain on course to win the trophy for the first time since 2012.
Few doubt their ability to do so. The league campaign began with Atleti deemed to be in the mix for third or fourth. Bitter city rivals Real were favourites, with Barcelona eyed curiously, to see if Ernesto Valverde could cut the mustard.
How differently the season turned out. Real sit in third, seven points behind Atletico, who trail Barcelona by eight points. Few expected the Catalans to be so comfortable at the top and unbeaten after 28 games. Fewer expected Atleti to be almost as strong.
There hasn’t been a discernible change in the XI’s style of play as the stadium is close to sold out for every game. The average crowd this season is around 5,000 below the 67,703 capacity. Fans are flocking to see Atleti win and the players are not disappointing.
Currently on a run of eight games unbeaten, Atletico are doing all that could be asked of them in their new home. Seven of those games saw them win without conceding, the sort of statistic which pleases their manager. Simone’s restless spirit shows no sign of calming down nor do the players show any sign of feeling out of sorts.
Lifting a trophy this season would ease the path of the Wanda Metropolitano into Atletico fans hearts. And home is where the heart is.