Sneijder wary of Atletico title challenge

September 23, 2008

Real Madrid midfielder Wesley Sneijder believes city rivals Atletico could mount a genuine title challenge to his side and Barcelona this season.

Atletico have not claimed any major silverware since winning the Primera Liga and Copa del Rey double in 1996, but they have shown gradual improvement in the last four years with league finishes of 11th, 10th, seventh and then fourth last season.

Despite that, the Rojiblancos have still provided little competition to Real Madrid in recent times, finishing a combined total of 37 points adrift over the last two campaigns as their rivals recorded back-to-back titles.

Sneijder believes it could be a different story this season though, with Atletico starting the campaign in impressive form after strengthening well over the summer.

When asked if he thought Barca would be their biggest rivals for the title, Sneijder told AS: "Yes, but we also need to be careful about Atletico Madrid. They have a very strong team.

"I saw them in the game against PSV Eindhoven, they won 3-0 (in Holland) and it's not easy to do that there. It seems as though it was easy, but it's not.

"Atletico have a very strong team to win the league."

As for their rivals from the Nou Camp, Sneijder added: "Barcelona have many quality players, but they are still not a team. I've seen two of their games.

"Although it's true that at the end Barcelona and Madrid will be fighting for the title."

Sneijder has missed the start of the season due to injury and when he returns to action, which is set to be the October 5 match against Espanyol, he will rejoin a Madrid team without the mercurial skills of Robinho.

The Brazilian left the Spanish giants in ignominious fashion earlier this month to join Premier League club Manchester City.

Sneijder believes it is right that an unsettled player should be able to move on, but feels Robinho was wrong to say he would rather be a travelling salesman than continue playing with Madrid.

"When a player has decided to leave it's best that he is allowed to leave. It's good for the club, for us and for him. Robinho is a very good player," said Sneijder.

"He wanted to go, although in my opinion he should never have talked about Madrid like that. I don't like it that he talks about the best club in the world this way."