All the chips were falling perfectly into place for Atlético to do what just weeks ago seemed inconceivable: move into the top four spots of the Primera División table.
Levante drew level with Racing at home while Espanyol smashed home a late equaliser against Athletic Bilbao, which meant that if Atleti could take all three points from Valencia, they would leap frog the three above them and claim a Champions League spot.
With the league table tattooed into the back of their eyelids, Colchoneros around the world were counting down the hours to kick-off until the ball finally got rolling at the Vicente Calderón Sunday evening.
What transpired was another rock solid defensive performance by los Rojiblancos, but offensive sparks were few and far between.
It was a ferocious physical battle on the pitch and the carnage began piling up as a result of the 46 total fouls between the two sides.
There was blood, staples, and stretchers but, alas, there were no goals and each club had to settle for a point.
Even though our win streak was halted at three games, we can still keep our heads up.
Five straight matches unbeaten without conceding a single goal is an enormous achievement, and is a feat Atlético had not achieved since 1991, when Abel Resino was minding the goal.
Thibaut Courtois’ 10 clean sheets in the league are second only to Victor Valdés’ 12.
Our boys must now regroup and prepare for a stretch of three straight games away from Madrid; first to Santander to take on Racing, then to Rome for our Europa League round of 32 first leg fixture versus Lazio, and finally to Gijón to square off against Sporting.
With a little more fine-tuning, we should be able to keep on challenging for a Champions League berth.
Simeone laments his men’s lack of precision, but was satisfied with the result
“We have to continue improving a lot,” Atleti coach Diego Simeone told reporters after the match.
“The team is fine with regard to aggressiveness, but today we weren’t accurate. We lacked clarity in the final metres. With regard to effort, today we were very close to taking the points. I take it game-to-game. I leave happy because we were very close to winning.
“The opponent today was very tough.”
He continued: “In the first half, without playing well, we found ourselves with two goalscoring chances. In the second half we played a little better, in Valencia’s territory, and the team created two or three clear chances.
“It was an intense and tough match.”
‘El Cholo’ singled out the performance of right-back Juanfran. The 27-year-old will have hoped to have caught the eye of Spanish national team head coach Vicente del Bosque, who watched the match from the stands.
“He’s each time getting more accustomed to that new position and, as with everything else, with more games the better,” said Simeone.
“Today, he took on [Jordi] Alba and did it very well. He was better in the second half than in the first, like the rest of the team.”