Though we remain unbeaten in our last five games in all competitions, the 0-0 draw against Racing left us all feeling like we had just suffered a loss. Our aloof but always colourful president Enrique Cerezo accurately described the clash as “a mini-fiasco.”
If the tie was a mini-fiasco then the big fiasco was the state of our squad coming into the encounter. The easy excuse was to attribute the result to the absences of Forlan and Reyes, and that just so happened to be the very explanation that Quique Sanchez Flores gave in his post-game press conference.
“The team felt the missing talent of Forlán and Reyes,” he said. “Especially up top, deep in the attack.”
What the team is clearly missing is quality depth. The likes of Valera and Raul Garcia are simply not going to cut it. Atleti’s mantra throughout the current campaign, win or lose, has been “Champions League,” but without the arrival of more quality reinforcements this transfer window, we’ll be lucky to even qualify back into the Europa League.
Impressive Monday attendance
It was nice to see the Calderón so packed on a chilly Monday evening against a low-key opponent. The attendance figures haven’t been officially released yet, but I would estimate that there were about 30-35,000 Rojiblanco die-hards in the stands.
Unfortunately, the big crowd wasn’t enough to give us the edge we needed to gut out the result, and Quique’s goal of rekindling the love affair with supporters wasn’t helped much as the masses went home dejected once again.
Elusive win streaks
Each time the possibility of a three-game win streak arises, no matter the opposition, it’s worrisome and we are likely due for a loss. Inconsistency defined Atlético in the last decade, and this has been underlined by our inability to achieve three straight league victories. The last time this occurred was in January of last season, when we defeated Sevilla, Valladolid and Sporting in succession before falling to Getafe.
Domínguez a late scratch with stomach flu
When the starting line-up was announced an hour before kick-off, many feared that Quique had once again lost his marbles. Following a string of solid showings from Alvaro Dominguez, it was somewhat of a shock to see him listed on the bench. Reports later indicated however, that the 21-year-old was scratched from the fold because he had been suffering from symptoms of a stomach flu.
Diego Godín makes solid return
Dominguez’s illness paved the way for Diego Godín to mark his return following four straight matches of complete inactivity. The Uruguayan turned in a fine performance, as he participated in our third consecutive league shutout and fourth straight clean sheet against Spanish opposition.
Perea doing Quique a favour?
The Colombian defender was often on the verge of calamity yesterday, and was looking more like the Perea of last season. Could Quique now be mulling over the possibility of finally going with the back-line we all expected would be the starting unit during pre-season (Ujfalusi, Godin, Dominguez, Filipe Luis)?
Tiago likely to be ruled out for our next two matches
Though there haven’t been any updates with regard to the hamstring injury Tiago sustained early in the first half yesterday, we can probably expect that he will be ruled out for our next two matches, though we’ll update you whenever we get more information.
Koke shines in first team return
Atlético youth product Koke, whose real last name literally translates to “Resurrection,” might just be the one to bring back the life to our midfield. He certainly did so yesterday when he replaced Raul Garcia. Quique, who had to help the 18-year-old calm down after he had a brief attack from nerves right after jumping onto the pitch, absolutely raved about his play.
“He was excellent,” Quique told the club’s official site. “He gave continuity to the team’s play, had presence in the attack, and he stole a lot of balls in the middle of the field.
“He fulfilled his job to perfection.”
Merida not too shabby either
Much had been made about the big opportunity that had fallen into Fran Merida’s lap following Simao’s departure, and the Catalan playmaker responded by delivering a wonderful performance.
The 20-year-old connected well with Kun, once on a near-assist and twice from pin-point Reyes-like crosses that the Argentine wonderkid couldn’t capitalise on. Fran was also inches away from providing the game-winning assist after aiming a cross off of Diego Costa’s head with seconds to go that the Brazilian struck toward goal, only to watch Toño make a brilliant, game-saving effort to knock it away.
Throughout the match, the Barcelona youth product showed intensity comparable to that of Aguero’s both on offense and defensively, when recovering and even stealing balls in the midfield.
We may see a downgrade in production from set-piece situations with Simao’s exit, but Merida offers more quality from open play and felt like an upgrade from the Portuguese winger yesterday, albeit it was against weak opposition. We’ll have to see going forward if Merida can deliver on a consistent basis.
David de Gea as consistent as they come
Just another day at the park for our guardian. If only we could tie a chain to his legs so that he may never ever leave.
Stat of the day
The last time the Vicente Calderon experienced a 0-0 league draw was against Real Betis way back on April 28, 2007. Yesterday’s scoreless draw ended a streak of 67 games with at least one goal at our stadium. (Radio COPE)