The Rojiblanco Recap – Atlético draw with Valencia

A late Valencia smash and grab dents Atleti's hopes of a consecutive title


After Real Madrid’s slip up against Bilbao on Saturday, Colchoneros around the world were calculating the distance from our title rivals, and daring to dream yet again.

This dream was shot down by Shkodran Mustafi, as the defender made the most of Moya’s mishap 78 minutes into Sunday night’s draw with Valencia.

The game was billed as a ‘battle for third’ – and a battle it was. The game saw 13 bookings in total, including two for Javi Fuego, and by the end of the night 41 fouls had been committed.

This favoured certain sections of the Spanish press, always keen to label Atleti as ‘dirty’, more than it did the home side. Atleti couldn’t take control and in turn they couldn’t put the game to bed.

Whether Tiago managed to catch any sleep last night is still uncertain. Many rojiblancos suffered from nightmares of the Portuguese veteran’s point blank miss that would have surely wrapped up the three points – and levelled the head-to-head between both sides.

But it wasn’t to be, and with only five points out of a possible 12 from the last four games, the reinstatement of a two-horse race at the top of La Liga is almost complete.

But, is this a disappointment?

Post-game notes and quotes

Diego Simeone – “Our championship, as we have always said, is competing against Valencia and Sevilla.”

Our Argentine leader serving up some I told you so at the post game conference. Does anyone else still believe he’s playing mind games?

“We play with the characteristics of Raúl and Fernando Torres to give depth to the team and more work in the centre of the field,” he said.

He is of course referring to the real Raul. Both Raúl Garcia and Torres both embodied the fighting warrior spirit (well, we are Los Indios) and drove the team forward in a way that chieftain Simeone would have done in his playing days.

We played a great first half. We played in the their half, pressuring their backs very well and won all the duels,” Simeone continued. “It is a fair result but I’ll take the work of the first half which was very good.”

The first half was almost a throwback to the efforts shown last season and it is no coincidence that this coincided with the return of midfield maestro Koke.

The first half performance was dominating but without the French goal machine Griezmann, it was a harder task to achieve the final product.

“In the second half, we didn’t play in the same way…we played 10-15 metres deeper and didn’t press well, so a draw is a fair result,” Simeone conceded.

“I will not give you a headline by saying that we are fighting for La Liga.”

Would you expect any different? Even if Atleti were ten points clear at the top I doubt the Argentine would make such a statement.

Winning La Liga brings these pressures and expectations, and without the backing of untold millions the task is harder than Atletico make it seem.

Godin shared Simeone’s script

“Our rivals are Sevilla and Valencia. We only need to win,” our defender told the press.

The Uruguayan, whose headers last season gave us our ‘La Decima’ and almost prevented Real Madrid achieving theirs, repeated his managers mantra.

“It was not a hard game, it was the interpretation of the referee”

Godin, who currently sits top of the table for most yellow cards in our team, rubbished claims that the game was overly physical – Otamendi’s nose may disagree.

“We played against very good rivals, that’s why they’re at the point they’re at,” Godin admitted. “We are going to continue thinking about the next match.”

Partido a partido reigns supreme. The formula that has brought about the recent successes at the club is still adhered to religiously.

“In football you either lose or you tie or you win.” Godin with that bombshell – highlighting how despite the domination of his team-mates, the performance counts for little as we only come away with a point.

Resurrecting the midfield

The return of Koke to the starting eleven was a huge boost and his presence was a key factor in the confident first half display.

Unfortunately his goal wasn’t enough to win the game but having him back in the team is worth its weight in gold.

The canterano currently has 8 assists but as his development rapidly increases, don’t be surprised to see him surpass his last season’s total of 13 assists in La Liga.

Koke’s thundering volley last night was only his second goal in La Liga but it’s his work-rate, vision and pin-point accuracy that make him invaluable to Atleti.

Also, with Koke back expect to see Arda’s performance levels rise as the Turk has struggled to be the sole creative midfielder these past few weeks.

The final thoughts

  • Miguel Angel Moya spurned the chance to move into second in the clean sheet table after his misjudgement last night. He would have surpassed Casillas, who shares his compatriots tally of 11. It would have been a huge achievement seeing as he was plying his trade at Getafe only months ago.
  • Siqueira’s yellow card means the Brasilian will miss next weeks away game at Espanyol through suspension. This should see Gamez return to the team as the mysterious absence of Ansaldi seems to continue.
  • Mandzukic will also miss next weeks game due to, yes you guessed it, amassing too many yellow cards. The Croatian is currently Atleti’s top scorer with 20 in all competitions but was benched for yesterdays match and rumours of a fall out between him and Simeone are gaining some momentum.
  • Fernando Torres, Atleti’s poster boy, started up front against Los Che and continued his run of good form with an energetic performance. His header back into the crowded box eventually found its way to the right boot of Koke to give his boyhood club the lead. Will we be seeing more of Torres in the starting line up with Mandzukic being out of favour?
  • Jose Maria Gimenez could possibly be back in the starting eleven after a strong showing against one of La Liga’s best attacking teams. The understudy to Godin replaced Miranda, who was suspended because of… do I really need to say, and despite 5 games without playing held his own.

Luis is an Atlético fan stranded in the UK – you can read more of his thoughts by following him on Twitter under the username @Luis_Muscat. He’ll be joining us every week for a review of the post-match action.

  • Urban

    Firstly, its good to see aftermaths again. Gratz for Luis for taking the challange as Martin has raised the bar really high. You have all our support mate!

    Moving to the merits, it is true that our problem lies in our midfield. There was an interesting discussion few posts ago about Arda’s characteristics not fitting very well to our playstyle, but I will repeat that IMHO it is just a matter of current low form of some of our players. It will imporve, they just need some time.

    What worries me more is how the hell did Cholo manage to mess his relation with Mandzu. The Croat was really looking good and it takes some effort on manager’s side to create a conflict with a striker who is on a great goal run… We will see how this develops, my wild guess is that its just Cholo’s plan to get 120% out of Mario but who really knows…

  • Carpetano

    Off Topic. I can’t really understand those people who criticize Arda’s performaces for Atletico during yesterday… -.-

  • I’m happy too to see the aftermath again, although I’m still waiting for Martin, but I would love to read from Luis regularly, but in different topic, it’s a hard task, and what makes it even harder is the bad time our team live through, Luis will have to deal with more upcoming disappointments

    I’m not pessimistic, I would have never been an Atleti fan if I was, but I’m realistic, and from what I have seen, there is something seriously wrong with Simeone, and this is our real problem, not Arda, not the midfield, not Moya, not any player

    The Simeone I know would never substitute Koke with Mario while leading only 1-0 vs Valencia and needing another goal to secures the victory and to win the Head-to-Head
    The Simeone I know would never play for the draw, not against Real Madrid, rather than Sevilla
    The Simeone I know would never mess his relationship with any of his players (if the story about Mandzukic is true)
    I don’t know why, but his mind isn’t clear
    We beat Real Madrid not once, not twice, but 4 times this season, so playing for the 3rd and 4th place -and he really does mean it this time- is an act of treason in my opinion

    Our players are much better than Valencia’s & Sevilla’s, and please, save me the “don’t underestimate them speech” because I watch their games, and because La Liga is still weak and uncompetitive, even if some people who only look at the numbers and press headlines thought the opposite

    The players Simeone has are the same players who won the title last season + Mandzukic who won the CL, Griezmann, the best signing in La Liga this season, Saul who is wanted by the biggest clubs in Europe and Gimenez, the best young defender in Europe (who could be considered an newcomer since he didn’t play what’s worth mentioning last season)
    Failing to sign a good replacement for Filipe can never be the reason, because if it’s true, then Filipe should win the Ballon d’Or !

    I am prepared to lose the 3rd place, which could happen next week when we travel to Barcelona to face Espanyol while Valencia will receive Deportivo, a screaming proof about La Liga weakness, and don’t say they beat them 3-0 in the first round, because it was just one game and one headline
    And I am prepared to be knocked out by Bayer

    Unless Simoene woke up and got his shit together

  • I agreed with you last night, and I don’t want to repeat myself
    I just want to say that I wish we see you here more often, you and some other people with great opinions who we don’t read from them very often recently, like Urban, Will from Brasil, Paulo from Italy, and others who I forgot their names, I’m sorry, but they know I mean them too

  • TheSoccerSwell
  • Nestor7

    Come on gays be more realistic… Last year was something like miracle.
    I dont say its only a miracle but it was earned with lot of hard working and
    a lot of comitment and willignes. our place right now it maybe few points up,
    but it was many changes in team that cause that. We were making so many
    stupid mistakes during this season cause of new players are getting know eachother
    This season is just like 2011/12 when Cholo took us in his hands, but maybe little
    better cause we make a big progres from that period.

  • atleti10

    This current squad of players is achieving more under Simeone than it could under any other manager, Last season we won the league with Gabi, Mario/Tiago, Villa, Juanfran Miranda all in the starting 11. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of these guys but there all average players in the grand scheme of things. Even Arda and Felipe are below that of Barca and Real if you ask me.

    I wouldn’t swap any of them for any player but I am realistic. We won the league and made the final of the champions league with 4 world class players in Costa, Koke, Godin and Courtois. Compare that to Barca and Real and then Chelsea, Bayern etc and we have way out-performed ourselves. Now take away 2 of those players and only replace one of them with similar quality (Griezmann) and in addition swap felipe for a sub standard replacement and add a year to an already aging central midfield. I mean really what more can we expect from Simeone at this stage.

    Im upset with the results of late but to be honest looking at the squad we have I really believe we are performing at the level that should be expected. That being said I am expecting more next season. I think in Vlasquez, Oliver and Correa we have the youth, creativity and spark that the team have been lacking this season. If it were up to me Id let Tiago go (I think hes only going to get worse) and Id move Koke into more central position. Give Saul more playing time through the middle. Id start Oliver on the left and rotate Correa with himself and Arda. Id send Jimenez out on loan and give Oblak a chance as the number 1. Granted thats a lot of changes but I feel Simeone needs be proactive at this pivotal point in the clubs history. Either hold onto what we have and stagnate or begin to build for the future. With all those changes and Simeones leadership we have a team capable of great things. The only position I think we need to invest in financially is left back but if we sign Ansaldi and get him starting regularly Id be happy.

  • Chewie

    I mostly agree but that’s not going to happen with a manager that’s reluctant to rotate even when he has nothing to lose. This season we are performing poorly because the factor of cohesion and incredible discipline that enabled us to do so well last year is gone. And I’m afraid this team is not so hungry as it was a year ago. The arguing farce which happens after each debatable call is ridiculous. Maybe the players get their position for granted, I don’t know. But we shouldn’t forget about the psychological factor as well.

  • 1- I could accept what you are saying about having “average” players if we have dropped those many points vs Madrid, Barca, Valencia, Sevilla and even Athletic, but that isn’t the case, in 8 games against those teams we got 14 pts, more than good for me
    But please, don’t tell me that we don’t have players who are good enough to win the whole 6 points vs Celta and beat Villarreal at home and Sociedad away and thrash Rayo away like all the top 6 usually do against them

    I really do not believe that we are performing at the level that should be expected
    That’s what I keep repeating over and over but nobody seems to understand rather than to agree with me

    2- All what you have said about next season could (and should) have been done this season,
    Keeping Olive (and Manquillo), playing Koke in the center midfield, giving Saul and Oblak (and both JGimenezes) more time

    And that’s why I keep blaming Simeone, but it also seems that nobody neither understands or agrees with me

  • Miranda and -especially- Raul Garcia have absolutely taken their spots for granted
    And if Moya made more mistakes like the one vs Valencia and kept his spot (and he will definitely keep it) then he will start to feel the same way

  • Atletico should be playing better with the players they have. I think Tiago and Gabi need to moved onto the bench and Koke and Turan must rule the midfield. Our defense is still solid and though our goalie is not world class he is definitely one of the best in Spain.
    Simeone (my opinion) is trying to use more than 11 players this year. He, as a coach, may be trying to figure that part out as a coach. Obviously it is not working as well as it did last year. but we almost lost La Liga due to injury and we did lost the CL because Costa was not on the field.
    Alteti is still 3rd and has an easier schedule than the rest of the top 4. Now is the time for inspiration and Atleti must find the will to win the rest. (I will give one loss to be realistic, but that loss does not have to be Barca.)
    I would definitely be playing Saul more and keep Griezman, Koke and Arda on the field as much as possible. Rotating Jimenez, Mandzu and Torres should keep the front line fresh.

  • Since there has been so much dialog about next years line up, do you think they should sell Miranda and bring Tobi back next year?

  • Kris

    This is to everybody. If you think Correa, Saul, Oliver, Koke, Gimenez will be playing together, you are all delusional.

  • Kris

    Yes. Sell Miranda,from what I have seen from his playtime this season, he doesn’t care for the team, leave Toby where he is. Sell him, I don’t care. Bring back Velazquez and put him on the bench with Lucas. Start with Gimenez and Godin.

  • Kris

    It was not a miracle. It was hard work and discipline.

  • I’m dreaming to see those you mentioned + Oblak, Manqullio & Jimenez in one line up
    But it will never happen if Simeone is still here, not even after 3 or 4 years when all of them become more experienced, because they will never wait

  • Selling Miranda will be my first move in the next transfer market if I was the one in charge
    It’s not just because he is 30 and his performance is getting worse and worse, but as Kris said, he doesn’t care for the team, not unexpected from a Jorge Mendes client
    I will never forget for him his interview on the radio last summer when he said :
    “There are some offers, and me and my client are talking to the club to LOWER my buyout clause”
    You can ask to leave, but the clause is none of your business, especially that the clubs who wanted you were the filthy riches Chelsea, Man Utd and Barca
    If you really consider yourself a great player you wouldn’t have asked that and would have been sure that they will pay your clause no matter how big it is

    I don’t think Toby will be willing to comeback, and if he is, I will not do it
    The center back is more about good combination than good players, and
    Godin-Gimenez is a much better combination than Toby with either of them
    And he also can’t be the first choice right back, I believe there are only 2 or 3 RBs in Europe who Simeone can trust to take Juanfran’s spot, and Toby is not one of them

    If Velazquez has a European passport I would bring him back and have an
    all-Uruguayan center back
    But there is the old big problem : Simoene doe not rotate, and the kid is just 20 and needs to play a lot

  • ” our place right now maybe few points up ”

    How many points exactly are we talking about here ?! 3, 4, 5 ?!
    I believe 5 points can be considered few, and with 5 points more we would have been just 1 point from Madrid and 2 from Barca

    So, I will never accept any justification, and I will only see it as a missed great opportunity to compete again for the title, because those 5 points weren’t lost against Real Madrid, but against Celta Vigo

    Last season wasn’t a miracle, but I will admit that we had some luck, because 90 points wouldn’t have been enough in the 4 seasons before to win the title, in fact, in 2010, 2011 & 2012, 90 points wouldn’t have been enough to even finish 2nd, since both Madrid & Barca got more than 90 points in each of those seasons

    I will take finishing 3rd with 90 points anytime, and we still can do it this season, winning all the remaining 12 games will make us finish with 91 points, but the way we are playing and the way Simeone managing the games lately, I’m not even sure that we can get 80 points, and if that happened, it will be absolutely unjustified and unforgivable .

  • Thanks for the support for the aftermaths, appreciate the kind words!

  • Nestor7

    This year i dont see enthusiasm and “ganar” of the last year..
    we are lacking of more speedster playrs cause in our team
    the only quick player is Griezmann and Siqeira and even if Mandzukic
    is my countryman i think he doesnt fit in our sistem. Ok he is a fighter
    but he is very slow players. He would idealy fit lets say for Dortmund cause
    they have very fast and working playes like Kuba, Aubameyang, Mkhtaryian and Reus… I personaly want to see more of Torres in starting line up.

    Simeone is a type of coach who have a group of players who he trusts and he is holding on them. when i say group i think of 14 or 15 players. And i think he needs to change that cause like U all said many times we need more rotation!!!

    Our midfield especialy is very slow… Lets see, we have Tiago whO is 34, Gabi 32, Mario 28, Arda 28, and only Koke is young 23 yo. I think all of them are slow players exept Mario Suarez and young Saul who doesnt play much.. So my conclusion is that WE NEED MORE FASTER PLAYERS!!!
    Cause our sistem of play is based on solid defense (every player is behind the ball when oposition have it) good pressing and quick counter attack.. With Costa that was very easy but now it isnt..

  • I didn’t know that you are a Croat, you should have bragged about it with every goal from Mandzu 😉

    I can safely say that everybody agrees with your analysis, but again, it’s not what I’m arguing about, my point is that -despite all what you said- I’m very convinced that we should have done better

    All our team is old, not just the midfield,
    Miranda 30, Juanfran 30, Godin 29, Gamez 29, Ansaldi 28, Siqueira 28, Torres 30 & Mandzukic 28
    While the young players are either on the bench (Gimenez, Jimenez & Saul) or on loan (Oliver, Manquillo & Leo)

    This is very wrong, even if those old players were very fit, because it’s not just about fitness, but it’s more about desire and enthusiasm, and there is no better example about that than Miranda & Gimenez

    The age average of our 14 most used players so far this season is 27.8 years, and take Gimenez out (the 14th most used player) and it becomes 28.4 years

    I believe this number should get down next season to 25 at most

  • atleti10

    I think they should be in the squad, not all starting. I am expecting to see Koke, Saul and Gimenez starting together soon though.

  • atleti10

    Ye I agree, speed and creativity. One player already on our books comes to mind..