Defending La Liga champions Atletico Madrid could enter 2022 outside the top four and tensions are simmering between Luis Suarez and Diego Simeone.
Atletico fell to a 2-1 loss to Sevilla on Saturday night, with rivals for a Champions League spot remaining second in the table.
A stunner from Ivan Rakitic and a late winner from Lucas Ocampos left Atleti in the quagmire, in fifth place, embarrassing under Madrid minnows Rayo Vallecano.
It turned out to be a historic defeat for Simeone, who has lost three straight games for the first time since taking up his coaching duties in 2011. Their previous two losses came against Mallorca as well as against their rival du Real Madrid.
Atleti now have 13 points off leaders Real, at a time when they were spending more than Spanish giants and their Clasico Barcelona rivals, but failed to convince.
Simeone already had an enviable, title-winning group of attackers from Luis Suarez, Joao Felix and Angel Correa last season, which was completed this summer with the return of Antoine Griezmann and the purchase of Matheus Cunha.
The club legend is struggling to get to grips with his new squad, however, with last season’s league player of the year Suarez becoming a problem for his lack of activity outside the box.
This saw the Uruguayan substituted in the 57th minute against Sevilla with the score 1-1, and his reaction painted a picture.
Reports in Spain claim the ex-Liverpool and Barcelona forward said “A *******, still the same” as his number was called, and he was then seen looking livid on the bench.
Suarez, however, may have to watch himself as the once unstoppable striker is experiencing one of the worst droughts of his career in front of goal.
The 34-year-old was sidelined for the seventh straight game, his longest run as a baron since a streak with Ajax in 2007.
Legend as a player and manager of the club, Simeone’s job will likely never be in question, but there is no doubt that the pressure is mounting.
“Well, I always talk about the reality of my team,” said the Argentine after the game. “We know that what we are going through is a difficult time where the results are not working our way.
“I’m still as excited as the first day I came here as a manager, I know you have to keep working hard and trying to get people back in shape.
“But most importantly, we have to rebuild the confidence of the team because we know we can change things in the next few games and that is the reality that I see.
“We obviously have to look at each other and see where we can improve, but I have full confidence in my team.”
The most worrying thing is defense, with Simeone’s sides generally bulletproof at the back.
Only Cadiz have conceded more goals in the final five minutes of the league games than Atleti’s six, but main defender Filipe has been far less flattering than his manager.
“We have to be more careful,” he said.
“We were at the top of our game for the first 15 minutes, but then we suffer from set pieces and it’s not the first time that has happened.”
Atleti have already conceded 20 goals, just five short of their total from last season, and unless things are sorted out quickly, Simeone will have a lot more to say.
Get the EDGE
talkSPORT EDGE is the free soccer app that lets you stay ahead of your friends with short, to the point, and shareable content.
Stay on top of everything happening in the world of football with the latest news, live scores and in-app betting.
How can I get it?
It is available on iPhone and Android devices.
For iPhone, download talkSPORT EDGE via the App Store here.
For Android, download talkSPORT EDGE via the Play Store here.