Atletico Madrid’s goalscoring troubles resurfaced as they drew 0-0 at home to a struggling Leganes side that finished with a defender in goal after the dismissal of Ivan Cuellar.
Atletico crashed out of the Copa del Rey in midweek after losing to third-tier Cultural Leonesa, and Sunday’s latest setback would appear to rule Diego Simeone’s team out of title contention.
They are now winless in four games, their surprise cup exit preceded by a 2-0 loss at Eibar in La Liga last weekend and defeat by Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup.
Atletico could finish the day 10 points behind city rivals Real, who travel to Real Valladolid later, ahead of next week’s Madrid derby at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Simeone admitted on Saturday his “life is consumed by Atletico” and while his stock among the club’s fans remains largely undiminished, there are concerns about his team’s direction of travel.
“Honestly, we’re not talking about the coach in the changing room,” said Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak.
“We all speak with him as players and we’re here to get better and to play football the fans enjoy.
“But what pleases supporters is to see their team win. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case these past few matches. We’re going through a bad patch.”
Having sold French striker Antoine Griezmann to Barcelona, scoring goals has been Atletico’s fundamental weakness this season. They have managed only 22 in 21 league games, the same number as Real Mallorca in 17th.
Angel Correa and Alvaro Morata both tested Cuellar in the first half while Recio went close for Leganes with a curling strike that was deflected over by an Atletico defender.
Substitute Ivan Saponjic headed over for Atletico in stoppage time before bottom side Leganes were forced to play the final minutes with left-back Jonathan Silva in goal after Cuellar was shown a second yellow card for time-wasting.
Atletico continue to negotiate with Paris Saint-Germain over the signing of Edinson Cavani but even if the French club can be persuaded to sell this month, Cavani’s arrival may come too late.