The red and white aftermath: Match Day 35

Raúl García leads the way as Atleti take a huge step in the Mestalla

Raul Garcia celebrates scoring. (Photo: CNN)

Raul Garcia celebrates scoring. (Photo: CNN)

‘Ya caerá el Atleti’ (Now Atleti will fall) is a phrase that has been used repeatedly this season, as surely it was only a matter of time.

In this two-team league of ours, nobody thought unfancied Atlético would make it to May as league leaders. Sooner or later they would slip and hand the momentum back to Real Madrid and Barcelona, before slowly fading away…

Or maybe not.

Diego Simeone and his team once again overcame a huge hurdle in their pursuit of the most improbable of league titles, grinding out a massive 1-0 win against Valencia on Sunday afternoon.

In a ground where they hadn’t won a La Liga game for over 11 years, sandwiched between a Champions League semi-final, this was the game in which many tipped the dream to end.

However, the red and whites defied the odds once more by doing what they have done all season. Atleti were solid at the back, decisive on the counter, strong in midfield and focused, determined and committed from start. It was the perfect recipe for league win number 28 of this incredible season.

Raúl García was the match-winner with a goal that summed up the performance of both himself and team, cleverly nodding a floated pass from Gabi over an opposition defender and goalkeeper, bouncing in off the post.

Few would have seen such a hopeful ball forward as a goal-scoring opportunity, but the Navarrese front man has earned a reputation for feeding on such chances, and made Valencia pay for the fourth consecutive match this season. He wanted it more, and reaped the rewards.

The home side, fresh off the back of a Europa League semi-final themselves, were allowed to come forward and ask questions in the second half, but Atleti had the answers and defended their lead in style. In truth, they probably should have added to it had Diego Costa remembered his shooting boots.

Despite the win though, a lot of work is still to be done. Barcelona came from behind to get all three points at Villarreal, and with Real Madrid having a game in hand, any slip now could well be critical.

Three finals remain, starting back on the east coast at Levante next week. For Cholo, that must take a back seat – as we have the small matter of Chelsea and a place in the Champions League final to play for.

Post-game notes and quotes:

Cholo the Cumpleañero applauds team effort

Under extreme pressure and physical demand, most managers would be rolling out the excuses. Simeone however, 44 on Monday, strives for the very best, and continues to challenge his team.

“We played today against a major rival, a very important team who gave us a serious game, but we needed the win and we got it,” he told the press.

“The team had the attitude to win the game in every moment, and we had the chances to finish it in the second half. Even with the uncertainty of just a one goal lead, we showed great resolve.”

The Argentine went on to praise the thousands of travelling Atléticos who helped turn the Mestalla red and white, making sure to include the fans in their team’s success and underline their importance.

“From below we could see the reflection of our colours in the stands. Seeing the people and the flags in the crowd really helps and makes us feel a great pride,”

“Every game is very tough, and we can’t afford to relax for a single day. Now the focus is on Chelsea, a very powerful team who we know can cause us a lot of problems.” he finished.

Matchwinner Raúl heads home 17th of the season

As cliché as it may be, Raúl García’s transition from zero to hero under Simeone has been a sight to behold, this season in particular.

Once a perennial victim of the Calderón boo-boys, the 27 year-old has been given a new lease of life since returning from a loan spell at Osasuna two years ago, and has become one of the our most valuable players.

“The most important thing for me is the team’s result,” he said. “What we’re doing is down to sacrifice and humility. We are a collective, we always give our all, and that’s why we are where we are.”

“Valencia came out to win and made it difficult, and we expect the same on Wednesday. We are competing at the highest level, but hopefully we can make another important step both for ourselves and the history of the club.”

“The support of our people is important. Every match we play has something at stake and they are always there supporting us, it is as much of a joy for them as it is to us.” he concluded.

Pizzi laments side’s naivety

“Falling into Atlético’s trap” was how Valencia manager Juan Antonio Pizzi described Sunday’s match.

Time after time it seems to happen. Teams think they have the beating of Simeone’s men, but still end up on the losing side. Los Che started well and had the better of the first half, but went into the break trailing and were ultimately unable to find a route back into the match.

“The game developed as I expected. I am very critical of myself and my players, but considering the strengths of our opponent, we played into their hands,” he said in his post-match press conference.

“We had control for the most part, but the reality is that they were stronger, faster and won legitimately.”

“There are teams who are comfortable playing with a certain style and do so with great dedication. Atlético are one of those.”

Other notes:

– A day after the club’s 111th birthday, a number of new records were set. 88 points in La Liga beats the total of 87 set in the 1995-96 doblete season, despite the current team having played seven matches fewer. I don’t think you’ll need telling how many more are required…
20 clean sheets is also more than we ever managed in a single season. It was also the first time in 25 that Valencia have failed to score in the Mestalla, and is our 8th shut-out in 9 matches.
– The win was our ninth in La Liga on the bounce. If there were a record for the amount of club record’s broken in a single season, we would probably have broken that as well.
Juanfran‘s late dismissal means he will miss next Sunday’s final at Levante. It was our first direct red card of the season, and second in total after Filipe back in October at Granada.
– Playing for a place at the World Cup and a contract extension, David Villa is now 12 games without a goal. Despite getting a warm reception back at his old club, this is a worrying run of form for the veteran frontman.
– Before the game, both team’s paid tribute to Villa’s manager at Barcelona last season, Tito Vilanova, who tragically died of throat cancer on Friday afternoon. Rest in peace.


  • starvs

    Close but not close enough, cannot get ahead of ourselves and have to stay focused. Eye on the prize.

  • kris

    Rest in peace, Tito. David Villa’s lack of goal scoring worries me, I have to say he really doesn’t get as much chances created to him in this Diego Simeone side where, if you are to score a goal you are going to have to do it by yourself and not rely on anybody else. With Arda Turan back though, I think there will be more goals being produced/chances created as Arda and Koke work on the flanks and midfield really well.. I am hoping ‘El Guaje’ can make the World Cup for the last time. If he can produce some magic on Wednesday at the Stamford Bridge and help us get to the final, he is one step closer to being added to the roster. All the best Villa. Atleti have really broken MANY records this season under Simeone. It’s really impressive. All eyes,brains,nerves,muscles on the Chelsea final at the Bridge as of right now before we think of any other final, this particular final has to be won. FORZA ATLETI!

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    Raul Garcia has the same La Liga goals as the 100-million-euro Neymar (9)
    with 182 less play minutes & with no penalties (1 for Neymar)

    Nobody knows what did Simeone do to Raul, was it a secret drug or a magic spell or did he replace him with someone who looks exactly like him ?!!
    But whatever he did to him, he has to do the same next season to Adrian

    David Villa needs to do something magnificent to go to Brazil, score a winner in London or Lisbon or to score a brace against Levante or a hat-trick against Malaga

    But at least he has a chance, unlike Raul & Gabi who will never be selected by del Bosque no matter what, or Miranda & Filipe who are just hoping to sit on the bench beside Scolari who -for unknown reason- doesn’t like Atleti !
    Costa was very lucky to not play an official game with Brazil so he could play for another team who has a manager who is subscribed to a channel that broadcast La Liga games !!

  • Chewie

    I believe after a slight change in the squad Cholo will assess the team’s possibilities and come up with several strategies that will be meant to highlight each of the attacking players’ strengths. We shouldn’t really worry who exactly will come as a replacement for if Simeone has managed to turn Raul into a stalwart scoring machine, than he can do wonders with any decent player. And except Cebolla and Aranzubia all our players are more than decent.

    As for the World Cup – Raul Garcia and Gabi should’ve come to Russia, I’m sure we’d have found a place for them in the squad =)

  • Ali
  • Valinia

    @AHMAD i feel so sad for miranda n filipe when i saw tht they r kinda pessimistic abt getting into the national team (just read their interview). i never understand why scolari seldom call them (n also costa in the last season) since we have one of the best defence in europe, n they are some of the best defenders in the world. especially for filipe, neither marcelo or maxwell is better than him.. i know its silly but i kinda feel like scolari blamed them for not convincing costa to play for brazil, thts why they r neglected no matter how good they r

  • Silchas

    miranda and filipe won’t go to world championship because scolarie has said that he wants Atletico ti winn agianst chelsea so that ramirez, oscar und luiz can be by the nationalteam without delay. So its clearly that he won’t nominate them. he taher go with maxweill and Rever or some other lowlevel defender from the brasilian league

  • jeronamo

    Uhhh Ahmad… Adrian HAS to go, no maybes or buts about it

  • Pantic#10

    Adrian played a great match against barca in CL.
    This is the original Adrian, the Adrian that we admired in Europa League (remember his amazing goal vs Besiktas?).

    Unfortunately, overall last 2 season were disappointing …but we still have 4 matches (5 with a possible CL final) and i still have faith in him.
    C’mon Perfect 7!

  • anshary

    hi guys,

    anyone knows exactly how many records have been broken this season?
    (including the record for most number of records broken. =P)

  • Kris

    The arrogance level of Chelsea fans is beyond pathetic. Hope we can tear their dreams and hopes in pieces tomorrow. Forza Atleti!

  • piserakos

    @anshary… i lost the number before 3-4 weeks 😛

  • Jeronamo

    Real is taking bayern to school but alonso has to miss the final. I hope we cut Chelsea’s ass tomorrow

  • Will

    @JERONAMO,

    can’t believe in that.. 0-3 in the first half. Ancelotti really found a way to Guardiola’s football.

  • EC

    I hope to god we wind tomorrow because if we don’t Real Madrid have won La Decima. Chelsea will have no chance against them