Will the nightmare ever end?
Atlético suffered their ninth loss in a row to their arch-nemesis Real Madrid on Saturday.
At this point, and perhaps possibly for some time now, the feelings between the two capital sides simply can’t be mutual.
Los Blancos have helped themselves to all 21 of the last 21 points up for grabs in the last seven league derbies.
Why would they consider us a bitter rival?
While Atlético were dealt a severe blow to their plans with Filipe Luís’ late scratch from the starting line-up, it took one uncharacteristic mental error by Arda — giving away a free kick in a dangerous area with a silly and completely unnecessary handball — to foil a somewhat bright start for Diego Simeone’s men.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s ensuing splendid free kick goal, which we can only attribute to sheer luck based on his countless botched efforts throughout the past couple of years (okay, there was a little skill involved as well), put out the fire originally alighted by the roughly 21,000 fans that showed up at the Vicente Calderón Saturday morning to pump up their idols.
It was Cristiano’s first free kick goal since the 11th of April. Guess who he scored that one against.
On the bright side, in spite of the loss, we’re still well on track to finishing in first in the so-called ‘Otra Liga‘, the ‘Other League’, the one whose winner earns direct qualification into the Champions League for next year.
Málaga, Betis and Getafe are all level at 22 points apiece, with Málaga holding the fourth-place spot through goal differential. That leaves us with a 12-point advantage over that group at the end of the day.
Some will also take solace in still being five points up on the Merengues. We know we will.
Plus, this derby gave us two memorable moments: when Diego Costa was kind enough to scare a fly away from Sergio Ramos’ head (GIF here); and, when Cristiano embarrassed the [gel] out of himself (GIF here).
As much as many of us will vow that we’ll never let ourselves get our hopes up again ahead of the next derby, that time will come and there we’ll be, counting the hours before kick-off dreaming of finally putting an end to the ‘White Spell’.
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone also cursed by Real Madrid
Atleti coach Diego Simeone, like a 12-year-old or younger Atlético fan, still has no idea what it’s like to beat Real Madrid, having never triumphed over them with any of the four teams he played against them with (Sevilla, Atlético, Inter Milan, Lazio).
“The first half developed calmly, without any chances for either team,” Simeone said after the game.
“They got an opportunity with the free kick. We couldn’t progress with our play. In the second half, it was more of the same. We couldn’t grow offensively and that led to our loss.”
He continued: “Up until Cristiano’s goal we were doing well. With their first shot they scored a great goal. From there on out, things got more difficult, though I wouldn’t consider it a mental issue.”
Despite the palpable disappointment in the locker room, ‘El Cholo’ is already looking ahead to our next match.
“I haven’t said anything to [the players] yet,” he said. “They’re hurting as is normal when one loses. We’ll get back to work on Monday to see if we finish first or second in our Europa League group and then, on Sunday, we’ll try to take the points in our league game.”
Costa a constant liability, source of entertainment
While we saw a temperamental and feisty side of Diego Costa that could have ruined the night much sooner had the forward been dismissed (it’s really a miracle he made it through the entire clash without seeing red), he was simply hilarious.
Costa’s mini-battle with Ramos, who had called him “ugly” to his face early in the first half, was comedy gold.
Arda forced to pull double duties without Filipe
With centre-back Cata Díaz anchored down at the left-back position as Filipe’s replacement, Atlético’s attack was virtually non-existent. The team relies heavily on the Brazilian’s sprints up the flank in transition. In fact, creating danger through Filipe has defined the club’s style in the present campaign.
Arda, deployed as a left-winger, was forced to make up the gap created by Filipe’s absence. While the Turk effectively provided cover defending the flank, those efforts limited his effectiveness when going forward as he would start from a deeper position and with less energy and burst than usual. Realising the heavy toll the additional duties had on our ‘Number 10′, Simeone had Koke and Arda switch sides, but the move was to no avail.
It’s possible we may have survived Filipe’s absence against weaker opposition, but Saturday night showed just how important the former Deportivo man is to our success.
With regard to the decision to preserve Filipe, Simeone said: “I decided that he would not play. Cata’s performance was good. I had three options: Sílvio, Cisma and Cata. I chose Cata because he is more defensive, and I thought it would be better for us because of our opponents’ positional attack, as they have three forwards.”
Simeone continued: “[Cata] controlled Di María well. He correctly performed the task we assigned him. If Filipe would have played, he would have offered us something else.”
“We feel sorry for all the Atlético fans but now, more than ever, we have to stick together and carry on. Forza Atleti!” – Mario Suárez
- Atlético’s official site reported that Filipe Luís’ late scratch from the starting line-up was due to a left groin strain. It’s unclear how long the fullback will be out.
- Miranda will be forced to serve a one-match suspension when we host Deportivo next weekend, as he was shown his fifth yellow on Saturday.
- Filipe, Falcao, Gabi and Arda are all on four yellows at the moment, one away from a one-match ban.
- Atleti had never lost nine straight derbies, reports Pedro Martín of COPE. Prior to the current losing streak, the club had reached eight consecutive defeats to Real Madrid on two occasions (from 1952-55 and from 1994-97).