Atlético fooled around with Valencia in the opening half of Sunday’s encounter, waiting until after the break to land all the heavy blows in another knockout performance at the Vicente Calderón that ended in a 3-0 rout.
Valencia came into the match having scored in their previous 26 league games, but Atleti completely snuffed out their attack on the night.
With no shots on target in the clash, Los Che were hardly a threat to Diego Simeone’s tribe.
Los Rojiblancos, who hadn’t won a league game against Valencia since early 2010, just missed out on a chance to lay claim to first place in Spain outright.
One extra goal would’ve given the red and whites the edge over Barcelona in goal differential.
But at the end of the round, our joint leaders of the league are not only level on points with the Blaugrana for another week, but also in goal differential.
Barça have scored one more goal than us (44 to 43), while we have conceded one less (9 to 10)–leaving each side with a net profit of 34 goals.
Fans of both clubs will be breaking out their 2014 calendars to circle in the date for what is really marinating to become a juicy bout on the weekend of the 12th of January.
Partido a partido though, right?
Atleti will continue to enjoy the comforts of home, where they haven’t allowed a goal in over two months, for the next two matches.
The return leg of their Copa del Rey battle with Sant Andreu kicks off on Wednesday, and our men host Levante at ‘Cholo Castle’ in La Liga on Saturday.
“Our fans are spectacular. They supported us a lot. If we have to run for them, let them have no doubt that we will. We play for our family, for our children and for our magnificent supporters.” – Miranda
Post-game notes and quotes:
Atleti have secured a clean sheet in exactly half of their games during Simeone’s reign
Sunday’s match was Diego Simeone’s 112th at the helm of Atlético. In 56 of those games — half of them — Atleti have prevented their opponents from scoring.
In 82 of those, Simeone’s team have drawn first blood.
It took about an hour for them to do so against their latest visitors, because, as ‘Cholo’ explained in his post-game press conference, “Valencia had the ball in the first half, which reduced the amount of time we had to recover it and attack quickly between the lines.”
The Argentine continued: “We talked about it at the break, and we came together to pressure more and were much more concrete. We knew that Valencia stack a lot of people up top, and we could hurt them in the space [left at the back].
“The individual efforts ended up opening the path for us, and the second half was a very good one.”
Simeone had some explaining to do after television cameras spotted him, in stark contrast to his “game-by-game” catchphrase, demanding one more goal from his players when they went up 3-0.
“I want to win and, obviously, I always want more,” the 43-year-old claimed.
“Regardless of the situation, I don’t like passivity. I was looking for us to continue going up, and for the team not to be content with what they were doing.”
On the unavoidable talks of a bid for the title, Simeone said: “While it’s fine for the fans to dream, get excited and have their fantasies, we live in the real world. We know how hard it is to win every week. We keep our focus on the present.”
The present is Diego Costa
With 17 goals in 16 league games following his two-goal performance against Djukic’s men, Diego Costa moved back into a first-place tie with Cristiano Ronaldo in the Pichichi race.
‘The Beast of the Manzanares’ already has 21 goals in all competitions in the current campaign–a personal single season best for the Brazilian.
That’s with over half a year left to go in the present term! It took all of last season for Costa to bag 20.
The only stain on the 25-year-old’s evening, and no, we’re not referring to the stains on the back of Valencia defender Victor Ruíz’s underwear, was his missed first of two spot kicks–the third time he has failed to convert a penalty this year.
Costa was awarded a second penalty and kept his cool to smack that one past penalty specialist Diego Alves.
The Beast revealed that countryman Alves tried to get in his head before his blocked attempt.
“He told me he’s seen me take penalties before and that he was going to save it…and he did,” Costa said immediately after the game.
“You have to have character. Regardless of if I miss or not, I always fight to try to do things well. I knew I was going to score. I had the confidence to do so, and thank God that I did.”
Raúl García makes strong case for a starting job
Serving as the current campaign’s 12th man for Atleti, Raúl García definitively proved on Sunday why he’s earned the chance to become a regular starter.
It took the former Osasuna man less than 120 seconds to find the back of the net after replacing a largely absent David Villa in the 61st minute.
While García and Villa now have 10 goals apiece on the present term, it has taken Raúl about 5 games less than ‘El Guaje’ to achieve that total. That’s without mentioning Raúl’s 3-2 lead over Villa in assists.
Simeone averted the question when asked if he thought Raúl should be getting the nod ahead of Villa though.
“Manquillo and Insúa should start as well, perhaps,” Cholo said. “They’re doing well. That just continues to create competition within the team.”
Coach Diego did admit that he wanted Raúl to take the second penalty called in our favour, after Costa had failed to convert the first one. “Luckily, the players didn’t see me and the trust Diego [Costa]’s teammates have in him was made evident.”
- Prior to the proceedings on Sunday, Valencia issued a public statement on their official website condemning the behaviour of a contingent of over 70 of their fans that had taken part in the throwing of a smoke bomb near a bar full of Atlético fans located outside the Calderón.
- For a third straight game, Thibaut Courtois was rested. Sure, the Belgian shotstopper returned to the starting line-up on Sunday against Valencia after missing our last two matches through injury, but his defence did most of the work for him. Courtois was credited with his 11th shutout in 2013-14 (8th in La Liga), and has taken a commanding lead in the Zamora standings with his average of 0.60 goals allowed per game in Primera play. Atleti actually have a stake in the top 2 ‘keepers in that department, as our very own Sergio Asenjo (0.93 goals allowed per game on loan at Villarreal) sits in second on the award’s table.
- Diego Godín dished off the pass to Costa that led to our opening goal. It was the Uruguayan’s first assist of the season.
- Juanfran joined the long list of Atléticos on four yellow cards, which also includes: Koke, Filipe Luís, Gabi, Arda and Raúl García. It wouldn’t be a bad idea at all for our suspension threatened players to pick up their fifth against Levante and face suspension against Málaga in order to ensure their availability for Barcelona’s visit.
- Beloved former Atleti defender Tomáš Ujfaluši, who recently hung up his boots, was in attendance for Sunday’s match as he had promised earlier in the week, and was paid tribute to by Atleti fans in the stands that displayed a banner reading: “Ujfalusi, always one of our own”. ‘Ujfa’ reciprocated the affection, telling a reporter at half time: “I spent the best years of my career here.“
- Ahead of Monday’s much-awaited Champions League round of 16 drawing, Atleti skipper Gabi was asked who he’d like for his club to be drawn up against. “I’d like for it to be [AC] Milan,” was the captain’s tongue-in-cheek reply. “Because of what Muntari said?” his interviewer asked. “Nope, I don’t know who Muntari is. I don’t know him,” was Gabi’s response, an obvious and very pointed shot at the AC Milan midfielder, who, earlier in the week, said Atleti would be the “weakest” team to face.