Atletico Madrid are LaLiga's must-see team this season. Can they defend their title for first time since 1951?

Atletico Madrid is thriving in LaLiga this year and providing plenty of entertainment. They can they turn that into another league title? Oscar J. Barroso/Europa Press via Getty Images
It was amazing to hear Roy Keane tell Gary Neville about his disgust at being called into work Monday morning as a manager to find that one of his coaches hadn't watched Real Madrid vs. Barcelona. Keane believes he should have fired the man for not having enough taste, common sense, and football appetite to go on a special date with a LaLiga product. I couldn't agree with you more.

Atletico Madrid was the "must-see", as they have been since the start of this season. The long struggle to retain the title has seen eight goals (some exquisite), four red cards and 20 yellow cards, as well as a brawl at the tunnel, a penalty and one of the most bizarre own goals you'll ever see, 37 shots on target, the appearance of a Tom Brady-esque passer, and a football style that combines the catch-me if-you can nature of the Premier League with LaLiga's trademark smarter, more technical qualities.

One-hundred-and-eighty minutes of "blink and you've missed another explosive moment" football. That's just the 2021-22 season. Atleti also started their "Battle of Rotterdam" during the summer build up!

- ESPN+ guide: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, FA Cup, more (U.S.)

- Watch ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (U.S. Only)

- Do you not have ESPN? Get instant access

Los Rojiblancos fell to Feyenoord, 2-1, in De Kuip. The initial tangle between Yannick Carrasco, full-back Tyrell Maciaa ended with the Belgian swinging punks and Orkun Kokcu, Feyenoord's midfielder, bleeding from his neck. There was also a full brawl, while Marcos Llorente (just) kept Carrasco apart by Jan Oblak.

Carrasco refused his red card and Diego Simeone ran onto the pitch to insist that the tall midfielder get his medication. After Feyenoord's "offside” winner in time added to time, Simeone lost his temper and shoved Arne Slot.

The Feyenoord coach grumbled, "If there hadn’t been someone else around there might have been an issue." "I would not like to go against that guy one-on-one!"

But Slot added something telling, which seemed to predict the all-for-one-and-one-for-all attitude, bristle and gristle Atletico have injected into all three competitive matches so far. "Things got out of control, but I told my team afterwards that there was a lot we could learn from Atleti. Even in preseason training games, they can't bear the thought of losing if the winner is offside!

To understand Atleti's unflinching start to the season, it is worth trying to remember Bobby Thomson's game-winning home run in ninth inning. This was after the Giants had been down 14 games earlier. Or, do you recall the NBA All-Star basketball games in Boston Garden? Or the premier of "An American in Paris", starring Gene Kelly or Leslie Caron.

I would say that almost certainly not. All of those events are from 1951 when Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable", and Bugs Bunny's voice artist Mel Blanc had a novelty song as Tweety Pie called "I Taut A Puddy Tat". This was also the year that Atletico Madrid won consecutive La Liga titles - seven decades ago.

Atletico was even more fiery in preseason. They had a brawl during what was supposed be a friendly following a contentious goal at injury time. Herman Dingler/BSR Agency/Getty Images

Take a small amount of Atleti's three opening games in la Liga and rush it to a laboratory. Ask top scientists to analyze what they find. The test results will be labeled "Danger: Raw, naked ambition!" Atleti have a relentless hunger to do it again.

Atleti lost Spain's last conquered in 2014 and fell apart alarmingly the next season. They conceded more goals, scored fewer goals, and were 16 points behind Barcelona, the champions in 2015.

Celta Vigo was able to smell the cordite week one. There is a strong determination not repeat that embarrassment. Atleti's two most exciting, clinical and thrilling goals during Simeone’s 10 year reign were absolute screamers. They won Vigo 2-1. Their fitness guru Oscar "The Professor", Ortega, was sent home for his petulant complaining. Another brawl broke out when Luis Suarez was also removed.

Mario Hermoso was dubbed "The Equaliser" by Celta captain Hugo Mallo and was sent home. Atleti created one at the Villarreal match against Villarreal for your comedy scrapbook.

STREAM ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ Dan Thomas is joined with Craig Burley, Shaka Herlop and other experts to bring you the most recent highlights and discuss the major storylines. Stream on ESPN+ (U.S only).

The defending champions should have been ahead in basketball scores. They had beaten Spain's Europa League champions. Simeone's team took 23 shots and launched from 15 corners, while Villarreal only took two shots. However, after the game had reached extra time, Saul fired a "Hail Mary” ball forward and Aissa Madi assumed that Geronimo Rulli, his goalkeeper, had stayed in his goal to collect the cushioned header. But Rulli was off to his left, thinking the ball would go through to him. It bounced past Rulli, and landed in the net.

Atleti's red faces are for the yellow-shirtsed men. Unai Emery of Villarreal was also red as he was on the brink of ending his 15-game losing streak when facing Simeone.

Emery said that he spent half an hour cursing everyone and kicking the wall in his dressing room. Even that, Emery admitted, was the only time that the tunnel brawl had subsided.

Referee Soto Grado wrote a dispassionate report. "After the last whistle in the tunnel, there were a melee among all the coaches and the players of both sides. Unai Emery's assistant Imanol Idiakez aggressively pushed a home team director in the face and was stopped by his colleagues. Pedro Tomas Renones, [Atleti team delegate], punched Villarreal's mouth.

Do you not love the scent of testosterone in the early mornings? It was Monday morning. This is another Spanish idiosyncrasy. Matches that start at 10 p.m. are often denouements the day after midnight.

Play 0:56 Will Liverpool claim the top spot in Champions League Group B Steve Nicol reviews Liverpool's Champions League group, which includes Porto, Atletico Madrid and Milan.

Overall, Atleti are the "must have" ticket. Wanda Metropolitano was full on Sunday night with 27,000 people (due to pandemic restrictions), doing a passing imitation of a 60,000-strong crowd.

Atleti has produced some amazing football this season. Angel Correa is unstoppable in scoring goals or creating chances for goal, Thomas Lemar in midfield is lightning fast, and Koke's stats in the engine room are unparalleled. I could go on. It all comes down to the Man in Black, Diego Simeone, who impersonates Johnny Cash.

Last year, I had predicted Atleti would win the title. They won the title. It was a difficult prediction because Simeone's focus had shifted from winning at all cost to competing for Champions League money in recent years. In the last years of Arsene Wisenger's tenure, Simeone was plagued by the same thing that didomed Arsenal: the belief that top-four finishes and trawling to UEFA's money were the way to happiness. That stable club finances and larger contracts were more important than competing to win the title. Simeone clearly loves his team: their talent, their mentality and their hunger.

Simeone is behind Atletico Madrid's no-holds barred football. This season has been a success so far. Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images

He was exceptionally open about how crucial it was to add Rodrigo De Paul in his squad. The Argentine international then made his home debut against Elche, producing two passes that Tom Brady would be proud of. De Paul is clearly the key to unlocking defences this season.

Simeone is more than just that. He sees with keen, hungry wolverine eyes what's happening in Madrid and Barcelona. Both are asset-stripped and neither is fully satisfied with their transfer market business. Both vulnerable.

Atleti's Champions League group, which includes four teams (Liverpool Porto AC Milan, Porto and AC Milan) has made 22 appearances at the finals. Atleti is the only team that has not won it. But.

They might be able to get through this lot. Domestic victory and a first title double since Harry Truman (USA), Sir Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin (USSR), and General Franco (Spain), is possible.

All season, Atleti will offer a variety of all-or nothing, no-holds barred football nights.