The red and white aftermath: Week 30

Could a late-season surge in La Liga be in the making for Atlético?


Diego celebrates his goal with team-mates (EFE)

Atlético followed-up on their midweek Europa League success with another treat for those fortunate souls in attendance at the Vicente Calderón.

Sunday’s visitors met the same fate as the previous opponents that showed up to our stadium in bright yellow kits: a 3-0 thrashing.

Though Getafe came out of the gates swinging, a fluky Eduardo Salvio strike in the 24th minute pretty much extinguished the human highlighters’ early flame.

From then on, it was smooth sailing for Diego Simeone’s men who delivered a knockout blow in the form of a goal resulting from a Diego-Falcao role-reversal situation, as it was the Colombian who floated in a cross for the Brazilian to tap home his own rebounded first effort.

‘El Tigre’ embellished the scoreline with a signature pounce following some delightful work by Salvio and Juanfran, with the versatile right back sending in the final pass.

La Liga’s fourth-ranked defence sealed things tightly at the back, holding off los Azulones all afternoon for another home shutout, ensuring that all three points would remain on our side of town in the ‘mini-derby’.

Los Rojiblancos have consistently proven they pack a mighty punch with the support of their home crowd, but if they plan on shocking life back into their Champions League hopes, they will have to be much more convincing on the road.

Next weekend, seventh-place Atleti will head to Levante just one point out of the Europa League qualification places and five points away from a Champions League berth thanks to a Betis upset of Málaga at the Rosaleda on Saturday.

Post-game notes and quotes:

Simeone highlights “incredible” second half
“I’m happy with the interpretation of the match and for the commitment the players made to the idea of how we would play this encounter,” the club legend said in the post-game press conference.

“It was an even game in the first half. Little-by-little we began to accommodate ourselves better and the goal arrived, a lucky one, from a special header, at a crucial moment when the match was still tight.

“The second half was incredible. Atlético were convincing again, it didn’t look like we had played on Thursday.”

The 41-year-old manager was pleased with the return of a couple of key players.

“We can once again rely on Diego and Tiago and when our entire squad is at our disposal it’s very competitive and of a very high level,” he said.

Despite making it clear by using his mantra that his men would continue to approach the season “game-by-game”, the Atleti coach did say that “there are expectations and when there are expectations there is hope; us Atléticos know that we get excited sometimes.”

Salvio makes a confession
“On my goal I had headed towards the goal but I’d be lying if I said I wanted to place the ball there,” ‘Toto’ Salvio confessed to reporters after the game.

“I jumped up with the opponent and thank God it went in from the top.”

Most assumed the Argentine youngster was in the starting line-up so that striker Adrián could get a breather, but Simeone admitted afterwards that the decision was solely based on performance.

“Adrián didn’t play because Salvio is doing better,” the coach said. “I felt that Salvio had to play.”

The 21-year-old has now banged in six in our last 10 games and has tallied eight goals overall in 2011/12. Five of his strikes have been in the Europa League, including his spectacular game-winner on Thursday, while three have been in La Liga.

A tiger remains on the prowl
Radamel Falcao has scored seven goals in our last seven matches and now has 20 goals in La Liga and 27 overall, tying Sergio Aguero’s highest single season mark in the Primera División and highest overall total in one season.

The Colombia international is now level with Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuaín in third place of the Pichichi race, and even added his third assist of his inaugural campaign in Spain.

Diego reappears in the starting XI
In his return to the fold, our extraordinarily gifted loanee Diego added his name to the scoresheet for the first time since the 15th of January. It was the Brazilian midfielder’s third league goal and fifth overall of the season.

Simeone did nothing but lavish praise on his top playmaker after the game.

“Diego has a different type of quality, he’s a distinct player and when the ball passes through him it always seems like something is about to happen,” Cholo said.

“It’s like when you would play with your friends, you always wanted to play with the best players.

The Atlético boss continued: “Whether it’s Arda, Adrián or Salvio, they all link-up well with him, Falcao needs him, so do the full backs, the centre-midfielders…I’m very happy he’s back.”

The 27-year-old took to Twitter to express his post-game thoughts.

“I’m very happy about playing as a starter again after the injury, for the goal and most importantly, for the victory! Great job by the whole team,” Diego wrote.

Perea hints at summer exit
Luis Perea, who with each appearance breaks the club’s most-caps-by-a-foreigner record, paired up with Atlético youth product Alvaro Dominguez in the centre of our back line against Getafe.

The duo replaced the partnership composed of Diego Godín and Miranda ‘El Cholo’ has been mostly opting for since he took charge.

“I wanted to freshen up the defence a bit,” Simeone explained afterwards.

“Miranda and Godín are coming off of playing a lot of successive important games and I like changing both, not just one player.

“Today, Perea and Dominguez both played a great match. The guys know that at any moment they can come in.”

It seems like ‘Amaranto’s’ moments in red and white are counted. The Colombian national team and Atleti vice-captain seemed to suggest after Sunday’s clash that he’d be leaving his club of eight years at the end of this season.

“There are some of us players who complete a cycle at certain places,” Perea was quoted as saying by AS reporter Dani Hidalgo.

“There’s a month and a half left for La Liga to end. I’m going to leave with my head held high because I have given all the best I have to offer. I can’t say anything more at this moment.”

Injury round-up:

No injuries reported after this game.

Tiago made a reappearance, though briefly, in replacement of Falcao in the 78th minute. The former Portugal international will likely take the place of Gabi on Thursday for our clash against Hannover in Germany, as the former Zaragoza man will serve a one-match ban in the second leg of the Europa League quarter-final match-up.

Not many details have been revealed with regard to Antonio Lopez or Silvio’s recovery timetables.

Other notes:

  • Thibaut ‘Belgian White Chocolate’ Courtois kept his nets untainted for the 13th time in the league and remains in second behind Barcelona’s Victor Valdés in the shutout department. It was the 19-year-old’s 21st overall clean sheet this season.
  • Juanfran, who must have traded in his good looks in exchange for an extra seven lungs some time ago, continues to impress and was likely touched by the chants of ‘Juanfran Selección’ that resonated throughout the stands during the game, though he has assured in the past he only wants fans to acknowledge his hard work and cares little for the singing of his name.
  • Filipe Luís, who has been a defensive liability at times lately–occasionally forgetting to mind his flank in the defensive third, added his third assist on the year on our opening goal. Bonus stat: The Brazilian left back averages one nutmeg per game.
  • Koke, who came in for Arda in the 71st minute, picked up the only yellow card for Atleti on Sunday. It was the Rojiblanco youth product’s fifth booking so he will not be travelling to Valencia next weekend when we visit Levante.

  • Gert

    Nice to know: Courtois’ nickname in the dressing room used to be “tarantula” but has changed to “Tin Tin” (his parents told this in an interview with Belgian TV)

  • Urban

    Diego and Tin Tin (apperently) are pillars of the team, would be great to see them stay for at least a year more!

    When it comes to Turbo although I am always close to an heart attack when he is near the ball I admire what he has done overall and he has my total respect, but I guess it really is time for him to go.

    We have Silvio to cover the flanks and with Botia or Pulido coming in the center is well covered as well.

    Wish him all the best!

  • FALCAO is a hero, SALVIO is improving, DIEGO is what we are missing during our previous matches. Let kick the ass of Levente and move above them so that we move closer to UCL