Atlético remained on top of the world, or of Spain at least, when they beat up on newly-promoted Primera División outfit Almería on Saturday, handily defeating the Andalusians 4-2.
The resting of several key starters had no effect on Atleti’s unmatched intensity, as the onslaught of red and white attacks was relentless all evening long (20 shots, 8 on target).
Almería’s pair of consolation goals were really the only blemishes on an otherwise flawless outing, and are hardly any grounds for concern.
The rest of the day’s events came very close to playing out perfectly for Atleti. Real Madrid and Villarreal, who entered the weekend level on points with los Colchoneros, drew at the Madrigal.
Unfortunately, Barcelona managed to snatch a last second winner over Sevilla at the Camp Nou, which puts us level on points and on goal difference at the top of the Liga table.
Los Rojiblancos will break out the Champions League patches at the Calderón on Wednesday when they host Zenit, in a moment we’ve all been dreaming about for years.
That clash kicks off a series of four in quick succession, as we then take on Valladolid, Osasuna, and Real Madrid within a span of 10 days.
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone leads Atleti to best start since 1995
“We found ourselves facing an opponent that had scored in all of their games,” Atleti manager Diego Simeone said after his men’s fourth league victory on the campaign.
“We knew that, defensively, they work well, they move well, they’re fast and they have great players. Collectively, they attack well.”
The Argentine continued: “Our first 12 to 13 minutes were very good, as were the first 30 minutes of the second half. I think that, overall, the team was decisive, intense and aggressive. We had goal scoring chances and those led to the goals.”
Villa’s goals are sexy and they know it
So far, former Barcelona striker David Villa’s €2.1 million first-year price tag at Atleti is proving to be some kind of bargain.
The veteran attacker already has three goals — all of them of the golazo variety — in just six appearances in our colours.
The Spaniard opened up the scoring on Saturday with a stunning left-footed volley, and the future bodes well for El Guaje.
Costa averaging a goal per game in La Liga
“And I’ve been hustlin’ all day, this-a-way, that-a-way, through canals and alleyways…” raps Kendrick Lamar as he not only describes a typical outing by Cholo Castle’s resident ‘Beast’ Diego Costa, but also a day in his life.
Anything is possible when the Brazilian, who’s quickly becoming a legitimate La Liga superstar, gets a hold of the ball.
While Costa’s two clearest chances from open play are worthy of inclusion in the game’s highlight reel, the 24-year-old bagged his fourth goal in as many matches when he converted a spot kick in the 37th minute.
It was a bit surprising to see Diego take the penalty as opposed to Villa, but Cholo explained afterwards that, for penalties, “first Diego Costa, and then there’s Villa.”
As the great Info Atleti pointed out, it took Costa 24 games to reach the four-goal mark in La Liga in the previous campaign.
Tiago’s still got it
Simeone couldn’t contain his glee on the sidelines after Tiago finished off a set piece play executed to perfection.
“We always have a play, and this one was an option we had for another set piece,” Cholo explained during his press conference.
“I have to point out Gabi and Tiago’s speed in taking the chance the best way possible.”
The 33-year-old, who appeared in the fold in place of Mario Suárez, now has as many league goals this season as countryman Cristiano Ronaldo (2).
“It’s been very clear to me since I arrived at Atlético Madrid: the option of bringing on Tiago has always been phenomenal,” Simeone said.
“When it’s his turn to play and when it’s not, he offers competition, and we’re very solid in that position. Mario continues to grow day-to-day and offers us what we need.
“One must be prepared to go from the stands to having to play.”
Koke robs Raúl of a goal
At first glance, it appeared Atleti’s fourth and final goal on the evening belonged to Raúl García, which would’ve been the former Osasuna man’s third of the season.
Replays showed Koke just managed to graze the goal-ward ball however, and the referee attributed the goal to the Atlético youth academy product on his scorecard.
We’d be willing to bet that if ‘Georgie Resurrection’ had a chance to relive the moment, he’d have done his best to avoid stealing his team-mate’s thunder.
At least Raúl notched an assist on the play — his first of the present term — though he really did deserve a goal after having come very close to getting one past Almería goalkeeper Esteban twice before.
Gabi, who had two shots on target — one off of a breathtaking volley — didn’t find the back of the net, but he did pick up his second assist of the season on Tiago’s goal.
It was reported earlier in the week that Miranda was kept out of training with a fever. The Brazilian’s illness gave way to 18-year-old central defender José María Giménez, who made his La Liga debut on Saturday in the same week he suited up for his country’s senior national team for the first time. The Uruguayan’s first start at Atleti was satisfactory, though imperfect. Being harsh, the centre-back shared some responsibility on both of Almería’s goals. Being harsher, Giménez memorialised his premiere appearance with Uruguay by tattooing the date on his arm that contained a major typo: the misspelling of “September” in Spanish (“10 de Setiembre“).
Likely because of Saturday’s line-up shake-up, Atlético’s attack on the flanks was a lot more balanced than usual. For the first time since we can remember, right back Juanfran’s total touches outnumbered left back Filipe’s (63 to 58).
The last time Atlético won their first four league games, they went on to lift the Primera División trophy (1995/96).
Los Rojiblancos have scored 14 goals in their first four league games in the present term, their highest total after four matches since 1955, when they scored 13.
Atleti are currently riding a nine-game unbeaten streak in all competitions.