With Barcelona surprisingly held to a draw at Levante earlier in the day, the stage was all set for Atlético to move clear at the top of La Liga on Sunday night as they took on Sevilla in the Vicente Calderón.
However, not for the first time this year, they seemingly couldn’t handle the pressure and were left to rue their luck, dropping points for only the second time at home all season as the away side escaped with a 1-1.
This latest round of results has swung the league wide open again, with Real Madrid running riot at Betis to move to within just a point of the top two.
Atleti should’ve won and dominated most of the match, although that isn’t always a good sign. Sevilla came with the clear intention to get a draw, starting with 6 recognised defenders and allowing Simeone’s men possession, but as a counter-attacking team that has often been our undoing.
David Villa emphatically opened the scoring in the first 20 minutes, but instead of opening the floodgates, the red and whites failed to make their superiority count and allowed the away side back in following an individual error from Juanfran.
The point was celebrated like a trophy by the visiting Sevillistas which shows just how much of a gap has opened up between the sides, but has also cast a few doubts in the Atlético camp, with our apparent difficulty to open up and finish teams and reluctance to rotate more often being questioned.
Games are coming thick and fast at the moment and we do have serious chances in three competitions, but if Simeone continues insisting to play the strongest team in every match, repetition of results such as this can be expected.
We do now have a few days to get the result out of our system, but are back in action as soon as Thursday with a cup quarter-final to contend with, Athletic Bilbao our opponents in the Calderón.
Post-game notes and quotes:
Chance missed to move top of La Liga
Four times this season we have drop points and on three of those occasions, a win would have taken us top. Is the pressure of leading the table at this stage too much for the Rojiblancos?
Simeone continues to tell the press that he is not thinking of winning the league title, but given our position and recent results, the complacency and lack of authority shown by his team on Sunday must have been frustrating.
The Argentine boss cut an unusually forlorn figure in his post-match press conference, but didn’t give away what we would assume to be his true feelings on the match and the result, making an abrupt exit.
“The game was how we imagine beforehand, with lots of hard work and fight,” he asserted.
“If you analyse the point, it is useful as it keeps us at the top and can be taken into the next game, it serves us to keep fighting. If you don’t get three points you should at least try for one.”
For just how long can we keep up with the super powers of Real Madrid and Barcelona?
Will we pay for not rotating in the long run?
Filipe Luís has already suggested that doing so would be a challenge, but rebuffed claims that the team needed rest.
“We had a good chance to go top, but there is still a long way to go,” he said.
“We know that we are a target now, but competing with teams who can put €50m players on their bench such as Barcelona and Real Madrid is very difficult
“Physically the team is fine, as seen against Barcelona or in the other games since Christmas. Maintaining this level will cost us, but the team is trained to compete to the maximum.” he finished.
Should we progress to the latter stages in both the Copa del Rey and Champions League, matches twice a week can be expected right up until May, and at this stage it is already evident that it’s taking it’s toll.
Diego Costa in particular has looked a shadow of the player we witnessed up until new year, and the likes of Koke, Arda and a few of the defenders look as if they too could benefit from a few games off.
Raúl García denied penalty
At 1-0, referee Hernández Hernández opted not to whistle when Sevilla left-back Alberto Moreno clearly tugged down Raúl García in the box, a decision that changed the outcome of the game.
Shortly after, he correctly awarded the away side a penalty when Juanfran upended Carlos Bacca, but once again the lack of consistency in officiating proved to be costly.
“Their penalty was the correct decision. On both occasions the referee gave what he saw, and if you don’t see something then you can’t award it.” commented Simeone.
- David Villa ended his 7 game goalless run with the opening goal, although Diego Costa‘s barren spell now stands at 5 matches. The Brazilian turned Spaniard is yet to find the net in 2014.
- Sevilla’s penalty was the first we have conceded in La Liga since April 2012, when Cristiano Ronaldo converted in the Madrid derby 63 games ago. Courtois is still yet to save a spot-kick in red and white, having faced eight in total.
- Juanfran saw yellow for giving away the controversial penalty, which means he will now miss next Sunday’s trip to Rayo Vallecano through suspension.
- José Sosa‘s late sub appearance marked his first league appearance for Atlético, following on from his debut in midweek against Valencia. The Argentine had little imapact, but already seems to be above Adrián in the pecking order.
- Mario Suarez returned to full training this morning following nearly three months out with a knee injury. His last appearance came in October away to Granada.
- 51 points is the lowest total for a league leader after 20 matchdays since 2007-08, before Pep Guardiola arrived at Barcelona and upgraded the competition. As Filipe suggested, many more points will be won and lost before May.
- It’s now 5 games since Óliver Torres was last involved, the 19 year-old was called-up but failed to make the bench yet again. Cause for concern?
- We may not have won, but our unbeaten run now stretches to 19 matches. Last season’s club record run of 23 could be in sight.