Sunday’s scoreless draw against a last-place Mallorca side with one foot down the chute to Segunda made it clear that Atlético had already accomplished all of their pre-season objectives before kick-off.
Following direct qualification to the Champions League group stage and a Copa del Rey title and simultaneous snapping of a 14-year derby winless streak, there’s really nothing left for Atleti to play for this season.
This game, along with next weekend’s trip to Real Zaragoza, is like sitting around at work on a late Friday afternoon when all your tasks for the week have been completed.
In fact, the most memorable moment of Sunday’s encounter took place afterwards, when Rojiblancos Falcao, ‘Cebolla’, Gabi, Mario Suárez and Courtois celebrated, in song and dance, with fans still in attendance in the stands of the Vicente Calderón.
‘Cholo Castle’ warmly greeted and later bid farewell to an Atleti XI that have etched themselves in red and white lore, as Simeone unveiled a starting line-up identical to the one that faced off against and defeated (oh yes!) Real Madrid at the Bernabéu a little over a week ago.
Atleti close out this historic campaign on Saturday at La Romareda, where they will square off against another relegation threatened outfit in Zaragoza.
“We’ve put together a great year and it has been incredible. Above all, the fans have experienced a lot of joy with us and that makes us happy. It’s incredible to see them always supporting us.” – Koke
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone spoke of difficulty of planning for the match
Atlético manager Diego Pablo Simeone explained that it was a little hard to regroup after last weekend’s King’s Cup celebrations and ensuing trip to Singapore.
“It’s not easy to prepare a match under these circumstances but we had a lot of faith in the sense of responsibility the players have always shown,” he told the media.
“Beyond offering a little intensity, the team went in search of winning the game. We couldn’t win but the team tried to and made their presence felt.”
With regard to the squad’s charitable activities in Singapore earlier in the week, the Argentine said:
“They’re commitments that you have to fulfill and find the best possibilities for the team. From a physical standpoint, everyone responded very well and that speaks wonders about the players having taken care of themselves this week.”
Falcao bids the Calderón adieu
“These last two years have been like a dream come true for me,” a very emotional Radamel Falcao told a large group of fans — primarily composed of Frente Atlético members — still gathered inside the Calderón well after the final whistle had blown.
Amid chants of “Falcao, quedate!” (Falcao, stay!), the Colombian continued his farewell speech:
“I never imagined I would win three titles in such a short period of time and what excites me the most and has touched my heart is that you have been with us in the good times and the bad, and in the end, we’ve all experienced a great moment of joy together.”
During his press conference, Simeone thanked the forward for “everything” he’s given Atlético, while insisting that, at this point, there is “nothing official” when it comes to the 27-year-old’s possible sale.
“Everything that Falcao will achieve will make me happy,” ‘Cholo’ said.
“I’ve known him since we were at River. That was one year and now, it’s been a year and a half at Atlético. We’ve been able to win four titles together. I’d like to thank Falcao for everything he has given us; that is, if he has to go.”
Meanwhile, Spanish radio station Cadena SER claims Falcao will fly out to Monaco on Monday to undergo a medical with what has heavily been suspected as his most likely destination.
‘El Tigre’s’ countryman, Jackson Martínez, who, like our ferocious feline before him, plays at Porto, is among the reported candidates to replace our likely-to-depart leading scorer, according to Portuguese paper A Bola. Martínez led the Primeira Liga with 26 goals this season.
Asked to comment about the latest speculation surrounding the Porto forward, Simeone said:
“The club is likely working in that department, weighing various options.”
Juanfran hopeful of return to Spanish national team
After a much-celebrated call-up to the Spanish national team last year, Juanfran was the subject of ridicule for a very costly blunder in a World Cup qualifying match against France.
Since the mistake, the former Osasuna man hasn’t been tapped by Vicente del Bosque again, but is hopeful of a call-up to the Confederations Cup. The list will be unveiled on Monday.
“Let’s hope I’m in the list,” the former winger said.
“The truth is, to be with the national team for the Confederations Cup would be the greatest thing after such an incredible season with Atlético Madrid.”
Hailed as one of the heroes of the Copa del Rey final victory, our converted right-back gave a recap of the current campaign.
“When the years go by, we’ll value everything we’ve done more,” he said.
“To make it into the Champions League directly and beat Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey at the Bernabéu; the fans have to be so proud.”
Filipe spends night in hospital as a precaution
Mallorca defender Alan Hutton accidentally drove his knee into Filipe Luís’ eye with about five minutes left to play, resulting in the Brazilian’s momentary loss of consciousness and what the club are calling a “blunt head injury on the left side of his face, eyelid, eyebrow and nose”.
Filipe was stretchered off the field and did not return, leaving Atleti with 10 men to finish off the clash.
It is unclear if the left-back will be able to take part in our final match of the season.
- Thibaut Courtois bagged his 24th clean sheet of the present campaign in all competitions, and now has 20 in La Liga this season. His 24 shutouts equal his total from his inaugural year at Atleti, though he achieved the feat in seven less games than in the last term (2011/12: 24 clean sheets in 52 games; 2012/13: 24 in 45 games). The Belgian, on loan from Chelsea, told Atleti fans: “I will be right here next season.” The 21-year-old’s words indicate that his loan deal will likely be extended for a third season.
- Diego Godín and Gabi each saw their 10th yellow card and face suspension in final game at Zaragoza.
- Gifted young midfielder Óliver Torres was handed a hefty chunk of playing time after replacing Arda in the 58th minute. “He played very well,” Simeone said of the Atleti prodigy. “Towards the end of the game he had to perform a role that isn’t his, accompanying Mario in the middle. He gave the team vitality and, most of all, freshness. Next year he’ll have to take part with the national team and later he’ll have to continue improving and winning himself a spot as he’s done until this point. The team’s level of competitiveness will surely be higher next season.“
- “The fans above all else; Out with Cata Díaz” read a banner in the stands on Sunday following reports of the Atleti centre back’s scuffle with club supporters after last Saturday’s Copa del Rey celebration. Cholo opted to leave the Argentine defender off the game day squad–perhaps as a punishment for his actions last weekend though Cata did apologise in a statement released on the club’s official site in the middle of the week.