Heading into the weekend, the seventh Madrid derby of 2014 was the biggest match on the slate, just like it was the best match of the preseason during the Spanish Supercup, and just like it was the biggest match in the entire sport during the Champions League final a few months earlier. This one didn't quite match the class of some of those earlier contests, but the decisive goal tells you all you need to know about why Atlético are poised for another title fight and why Real will continue to struggle despite their starting lineup's star power.

Here is Arda Turan's late goal, which put Atléti up 2-1 for good:

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This goal, like the match itself, hinged on what was old and new for the two sides. While not exactly a counter, you can see here Atléti's preference for direct attacks. Antoine Griezmann—a new addition to the rojiblancos this season and to the game itself—finds himself on the right wing and plays a neat little flick to open up space for Juanfran to charge into. The fullback runs down the ball and immediately pounds a cutback into the box where a couple of his teammates await. Raúl García—who, along with Koke, manned the wings for Atléti; natural central players playing wide is another Simeone staple—is the closest to the cross but demonstrates an otherworldly awareness to dummy the ball through his legs while faking the shot. Behind him with a better angle is Turan, who calmly passes the ball into the far corner to take the lead.

Along with those familiar bits of play that gave Atlético the lead was the fact that in the second half, the rojiblancos began implementing more of the full-pitch pressure that wreaked so much havoc on teams at home and abroad during their dream season last year. Atléti could maybe be forgiven a bit for dropping so deep in the first half, since they took the lead in the match from—you guessed it—a set piece. As long as Atléti keep up with the mentality and style that lead them to the promised land last season, they should find themselves comfortably among the top three in La Liga at the end of the campaign.

But it's what was new for them that augurs so well for their prospects of not only maintaining their place in the Champions League but pushing for silverware in both competitions. That, simply, was Turan and Griezmann. It wasn't just that these players were in the side—Turan isn't new in that sense, though one can't help but rue the injury that kept him out of the UCL final—but that they were available off the bench.

Atlético Madrid were essentially an 11-man roster last year. Outside of their regular starters, they could either bring on whichever of David Villa or García didn't start for a jolt in attack, or Mario Suárez to spell either Gabi or Tiago Mendes in defensive midfield. Nobody else on the bench could be relied on to consistently bring anything different to the side.

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Luckily for manager Diego Simeone, the club completely renovated both the starting lineup and the bench during the summer. This is a team that can now start as strong of a side as began the match at the Bernabeu, and in the final half hour decide to throw on, say, its two best attackers for good measure. Behind those two—who will normally start games and be backed by Saturday's starters García and Raúl Jiménez—Atléti also have a dangerous pure winger in Alessio Cerci to provide a more orthodox threat from wide. In the center of the pitch, Suárez is still available to spell the two starters, and there is also the promising young midfielder Saúl Ñíguez. For a team that expends so much energy from match to match and was so thin last season to have added this kind of quality depth should prevent the late-season fatigue and injury problems of before.

For the home side, on the other hand, what was old was promising, and what was new was still awkward. The addition of Toni Kroos and James Rodríguez, combined with the loss of Xabi Alonso and Ángel Di María, was was always going to result in a period of growing pains. The team probably didn't expect them to be this painful though—for all the understandable hype, they've only picked up three points from their first three matches.

This Real Madrid, with Toni Kroos and Luka Modrić as pivots behind Rodríguez, can't play to the team's traditional strengths on the counter. For much of the first half this didn't look to be a problem, since Atlético sat so deep in their own half and afforded Bale and Ronaldo the space they need to be effective. It didn't matter that no one behind those three could run with them or create additional space with runs of their own; the three forwards were so open that they could counter basically by themselves. It made sense that Ronaldo won the equalizing penalty by running at Atléti's isolated left back.

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Real's attacking problems, to the extent that they had them in a game they controlled much of the time, were exposed when Atlético began pressing higher up the pitch and eliminated the open terrain the merengue forwards had been exploiting. Atlético closed down Real's attackers before they could build up a head of steam, and los blancos aren't yet comfortable deliberately picking their way through defenses.

Still, as that goal above demonstrates, the real problems for Real are defensive. Once Griezmann got the ball past the midfield line, the entire Atlético attack only had the Real back four to contend with. Look at the penalty box as Juanfran's cross rolls along:

Real Madrid's back line is (poorly) trying to mark the men in the box, but not a single midfielder is there to help.

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The reason why García and Turan were so wide open is because of this midfield disinterest in defending. Kroos and Modrić are great players and will give their all for the team, but neither has the defensive instincts nor the pure athletic prowess to be the effective partner the other needs. In the past, both midfielders' attacking focus has been compensated for by the presence of a Bastian Schweinsteiger or Sami Khedira, a player ready to rush into the defensive duties those attackers often shirk. Until one of them exhibits more consistent concentration on the other end of the field, Real Madrid will continue to get exposed in the area of the pitch right in front of the defense.

Still, it would be crazy to write off Real right now. Their team is simply too packed with too many great players—a couple of whom, like Khedira and Asier Illarramendi, could go a long way to correcting the defensive lapses—to not click at some point. But what we have seen from that one goal and the match in general is that the other contenders for the La Liga crown won't be waiting idly by while Real figure themselves out. Atlético Madrid are for real again, and even if that was bad news for Real on Saturday, it's great news for us.