Score, and hang on for dear life!
This has apparently been Atlético’s game plan in their last three home games, all of which they have won by the same 1-0 margin.
After getting off to a great start against Villarreal on Saturday, opening up the scoring within the first 15 minutes of action, los Rojiblancos spent most of their time warding off the Yellow Submarine.
It was a heart conditioning session and a great lesson for the many children in attendance for the annual ‘Kids Day’ festivities at Cholo Castle.
Most of those little boogers have no idea about the torture the red and white stripes have put us through in the past.
With Diego Costa and Arda sidelined, Simeone effectively amputated our attack when he replaced Cebolla with Tiago, and later removed David Villa and Diego from the pitch.
Villarreal took full control of the affair for the final half hour, but Atleti survived to make it six consecutive victories in La Liga–keeping their place at the top for yet another week and remaining undefeated at the Vicente Calderón in league play.
If they repeat that feat, with six games left to go, they will boldly proclaim themselves champions for the first time since 1995-96.
It’s the final countdown–only 18 points left to play for.
A por la Décima!
Wait! First, we have a chance to rock the foundations of the football world when we host Barcelona on Wednesday in the return leg of our Champions League quarter-finals fixture.
“We’re still leaders and we’re happy. On Wednesday, we’re back at the Calderón for the Champions League and Barcelona. We’re going to be phenomenal, and we’re going to put together a great match for sure.” -Juanfran
Post-game notes and quotes:
Simeone sweats one out
“I’ve suffered through other games as well, but this one was the one I suffered through the most because of the close scoreline,” Diego Simeone admitted to reporters at the Calderón’s press room.
“What these players are doing is incredible. I can’t find enough words to explain the commitment they have to Atlético. It was a hard game that we could have resolved better in the first half. In the second, Villarreal were superior, they had the ball, though they didn’t have any clear goalscoring chances.
“We couldn’t break away on the counterattack. It’s a very important triumph that we value highly.”
He continued: “I expect all the matches to be like this one until the end. In the final minutes, we were tired. We didn’t have the same strength and energy we always have, but the team used their head.
If ‘Cholo’ spent half the game suffering, he spent the other half leading the crowd–repeatedly commanding those in attendance to make some noise.
“It’s clear to me and it must be because I know this club so well–when the fans cheer the atmosphere is throbbing and this pushes you to continue competing,” he said.
“Many ask why we are Atleti supporters. This is why: because of the passion, the hard work, the humility. If we have to suffer, we suffer.”
Raúl plays the captain, and the beast
Because of Diego Costa’s hamstring injury, David Villa and Raúl García were assigned the mission of getting past Sergio Asenjo.
The pair came into the encounter tied in goals for the campaign with 15 apiece.
While ‘El Guaje’ admirably hustled — mostly off the ball — in the hour he took part on the pitch, it was Raúl, donning the captain arm band in place of the suspended Gabi, who made the stronger case for a start against Barcelona on Wednesday.
‘RG8’ used his noggin to smash home a well-executed corner kick by Koke after only 14 minutes of play, the lone goal of the bout and Atlético’s 14th off of a corner this season (8 in La Liga, 3 in Copa and 3 in Champions League).
With the strike, García became the first Atleti midfielder since Milinko Pantić (1996-97) to reach the 16-goal mark, InfoAtleti reported.
The former Osasuna man is now second on the team goalscoring chart behind the ‘Beast’.
The scenes outside the Rojiblanco stronghold after the game were unfathomable just a few years ago, as Raúl, previously nothing less than an object of ridicule, was mobbed by hundreds of Atleti fans as he made his way out of the stadium.
‘The Real Raúl’ perfectly personifies this glorious Atlético — also the object of ridicule not too long ago — with his new-found success, which happens to bring to mind this pointless fact we mentioned early last season:
“‘Curará Liga’ is an anagram of ‘Raúl Garcia’, which in Spanish means: ‘He who will cure La Liga’. Coincidence? Yes.”
Koke, global assist leader
Now with 13 assists to his name in Primera action in the present campaign, Koke has 2 more than he totalled in 2012-13 and leads Spain’s top flight in the category.
‘Georgie Resurrection’ also happens to have more than anyone else in all of Europe’s top leagues.
The 22-year-old has gotten an assist in our last three league games, bringing his overall total in official play this year to 17.
Courtois secures another clean sheet ahead of big announcement
A few days ago, Thibaut Courtois told the media he would announce his plans for next season this coming week.
AS may have broke the news first though. According to the Madrid-based sports paper, the Belgian giant will sign an extension of his current contract with Chelsea (which runs through 2016), and remain at Atleti on-loan for one more year.
While some members of the Rojiblanco faithful were holding out hope that Thibaut would somehow be purchased outright by Atlético, others were already mourning his imminent departure.
Depending on which camp you’re in, you’re either disappointed or happy–or maybe a little bit of both.
The good news is that the reigning Zamora title-holder picked up his league-leading 17th shutout on Saturday, and now has 23 clean sheets overall in his third season at the club.
“It was a very tough game,” Courtois said following the clash.
“We were able to take the lead but after that, we noticed the tiredness setting in. I don’t think we’re running out of gas, but last Tuesday’s game was tough and took it out of us and we noticed that today.
“We are taking it one game at a time. I’m sure that from now until the end, we are going to suffer, as we are reaching the final few weeks, but we have to keep going.”
- Adrián was gifted a full half hour to salvage his career following four straight league matches without even making it to the bench. The Asturian, as is customary, showed flashes of class and brilliant little touches here and there, but it’s almost as if there were an invisible force field around the opposing 20-yard box that only Adrián is unable to pass through. The striker (if you will) does anything but strike, and displays absolutely no forward-like hunger when he has the ball. We’re still firm believers that, once ‘Adri’ recovers that hunger in front of goal, he will start to make a comeback. Unfortunately, the 26-year-old still looks very far from a return.
- Villarreal fans and players complained of an alleged foul committed by Raúl before the goal. “I don’t know if Raúl García committed a foul or not, it’s impossible for me to see it from my position, but if I say it was a foul, then I’m a whiner, so I’d prefer not to comment on it,” Submarino coach Marcelino García Toral said after the game.
- Atlético broke their record of points tallied at home in a single league term, surpassing the 44 they achieved last season, reported Pedro Martin of COPE. With the win, los Colchoneros have now secured 45 points at the Calderón.
- Mr. Martin also reported that Atleti became the first club not named Barça or Real Madrid to total more than 77 points (Atleti now have 79) in a season since La Liga consisted of 20 teams.
- Approximately 345,000 undergarments were soiled when Toby Alderweireld, who otherwise put together another solid performance in place of a resting Miranda, almost accidentally scored the most painful own goal ever in injury time. For those of you guys and gals that need replacements, the club have made these fine undies available.