The stalemate continued between La Liga’s two giants when the first half of the campaign came to a close for the sides on Saturday.
Atlético and Barcelona played to a second straight 0-0 draw, with the third version of the great battle of styles this season taking place at the Vicente Calderón.
The sold-out Colchonero fortress was bustling ahead of kick-off, the Guardian‘s Sid Lowe describing the atmosphere, in exhaustive detail, as: “LOUD.”
Atleti displayed a ferocious intensity in the opening minutes of the proceedings, coming out of the gates running as if they had just seen a portrait of Ángel di María.
Though their early flame progressively burned out as the clock ticked, the men in red and white maintained the unmatched tenacity that has defined the era of Diego Simeone.
But, neither team ever found that knockout blow.
Diego Costa failed to find the back of the net in league play at the Calderón for the first time this season.
Meanwhile, Neymar and Messi, who didn’t start, came on in the second half with just enough time to leave Barcelona’s faithful without any excuses but, they too, were kept in check.
The attention of the football world was fixed on this clash, a Neo-Clásico of sorts, with everyone expecting a clear-cut front-runner to emerge after 90 minutes.
But the deadlock, which now stands at 50 points, shall continue for at least another week.
Atlético must now prepare for another big home game, as the second leg of their Copa del Rey round of 16 match-up with Valencia, all level at 1-1, gets underway on Tuesday.
Then, it’s a third consecutive match at ‘Cholo Castle’ on Sunday when we take on Sevilla to start the second half of our 2013-14 campaign.
“Atlético Madrid will continue fighting for La Liga, just the same as they have been.” – ‘Tata’ Martino
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone jokes of “small” difference in budget between Atleti and Barcelona
“The game was very even between the two teams in first in La Liga,” said Rojiblanco boss Diego Simeone, who, as a coach, has yet to defeat the Blaugrana.
“Both teams looked to strengthen their virtues and nullify their opponents’ with their styles. It has been a match disputed between two teams in first in the Spanish league that have totaled 50 points.
“It has been very competitive. There were goalscoring chances for both teams; few, but for both.”
While ‘El Cholo’ admitted that his men “have respect for Barcelona”, the Argentine also added, ironically, that “there’s a small difference of 400 million euros” between his squad and that of his weekend foes.
Of his club’s point total at the halfway point of the present term, Simeone said: “50 points are a lot. The players have earned them by working hard.
“They have worked and they have ran. Congratulations to the players. We played at home with the hope of winning, but there’s a big difference in the budget between the two teams.
“Now, we must rest and on Tuesday we have another important match: the return leg against Valencia in the Copa.”
On Saturday night, no other star burned brighter than that of Arda’s, whose face has officially replaced the star on the flag of Turkey.
It was evident from the get-go that the 26-year-old came into the bout inspired. Just moments into the encounter, he elicited ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ when he tore through Barça’s defence and danced down the goal line before winning a corner.
Our bearded warrior was presented with the clearest chance of the night for either team, but was unlucky not to get the sweet spot of his boot to a loose ball in front of Victor Valdés’ box.
If he had, we’d be celebrating sole possession of first place.
- Though our ‘Beast’ Diego Costa failed to score for the third straight game, his longest goalless streak in over a year, he finished the opening half of the league with the most goals ever by an Atleti player at the end of a first round (Costa: 19 in 2013-14; Baltazar: 18 in 1988-89; Falcao: 18 in 2012-13).
- Thibaut Courtois earned his 13th clean sheet of the season (10th in La Liga), though he was really only tested once by La Liga’s strongest offense. The Belgian was quick to get down and block a low shot by Messi with 10 minutes left to go. The four-time winner of the Ballon d’Or has failed to get one past Courtois in four appearances against Atleti on the trot.
- Godín, Koke, Filipe, Juanfran, Tiago, Arda, and Costa make up the laundry list of Atleti players on four yellows.
- Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernández, who, surprisingly, did not complain about the pitch at the Calderón this time, opined after the game that Atleti’s style is “different, but legitimate”. And not a single fuck was given in Rojiblanco land that day.