Atletico Madrid coach Manzano on the brink after cup exit
Atletico Madrid’s coach Gregorio Manzano is likely to be replaced by Diego Simeone, who is a fan favorite. AFP photoAtletico Madrid was dumped out of the King’s Cup 3-1 on aggregate by third-tier Albacete on Dec. 21 in what may prove to be a humiliating swan song for embattled coach Gregorio Manzano.
On a night of last-32, second leg upsets, Atletico’s struggling La Liga rivals Villarreal also suffered the ignominy of being eliminated by third-tier opposition when they fell 2-0 at home to Mirandes to exit 3-1 on aggregate.
The reverse at the Madrigal prompted the departure of coach Juan Carlos Garrido, with the club hovering just above the relegation places in the league following a spate of injuries to key players.
Real Zaragoza, who is bottom of La Liga, was undone by second-division Alcorcon 3-1 over the two legs and Cordoba, also of the second tier, claimed the scalp of top-flight side Real Betis on the away goals rule after the tie finished 2-2.
After losing last week’s first leg 2-1 at Albacete, who has local hero Andres Iniesta as a major shareholder and the name of the Barcelona midfielder’s vineyard across their shirt fronts, Atletico conceded after just under 20 seconds at their Calderon stadium.
The Manchegans stole the ball immediately following the kickoff and forward Victor Curto surged forward before sending a low drive skidding into the bottom corner.
Atletico had plenty of possession but hardly threatened the visitors’ goal and exit the competition amid media reports an agreement with former Argentina captain Diego Simeone to replace Manzano has already been sealed.
Simeone, a fan favorite when he played for the club, quit as coach of Racing Club on Dec. 20.
The 42-year-old was quoted as saying in Spanish media on Dec. 21 that he had not signed any preliminary accord with Atletico but he had spoken with the club and was hoping a deal could be agreed.
“There is a chance,” he said. “Right now I don’t have a team and they (Atletico) have called me.”
Manzano began his second stint as Atletico coach in June, coinciding with the departure of prized forwards Sergio Agüero and Diego Forlan and the arrival of striker Radamel Falcao and midfielders Diego and Arda Turan of Turkey.
He has overseen an erratic campaign which included a 5-0 drubbing at champions Barcelona in La Liga and has left his side in 10th with only 19 points from 16 matches.
“There are no adjectives we can find to explain that this is a great disappointment and a disaster,” Manzano said.
Barcelona has a 1-0 advantage when it hosts Hospitalet, while Valencia welcomes Cadiz after a goalless first leg.