Atlético resorted to their old ways yet again by turning in back-to-back stinkers in just a span of four days, with losses to Málaga and Racing Santander.
Though los Rojiblancos still have a solid chance of securing a Europa League berth for next season, they felt it necessary to put their fans through the torture chamber one last time for the final stage of the current campaign.
Atleti are notoriously inconsistent, but what supporters have repeatedly been able to count on this year, especially when deficiencies appear to have been sorted out, is a major letdown.
Quique lashes out at media and Forlán
“It’s been a match with two very different halves,” Quique told the club’s official site after the clash. “In the first half, we had the game dominated with the score in our favour. We committed two fouls and boosted Racing.
“I repeat, we boosted Racing in the last five minutes of the first half. We had to have gone into half time with the lead. We’ve lacked aggression in the attack in the last games. We created opportunities but we have to shift our speed. That’s what I told the players during the break, that we had to change the rhythm, but it was too late.”
The coach was then grilled by AS about Diego Forlán’s “surprise” exclusion from the starting line-up. ‘La Rubia’ was widely expected to be handed a start given Diego Costa’s unavailability through suspension, but Quique, somewhat controversially, went with Jose Antonio Reyes up front instead, leaving Forlán on the bench to begin the game.
“We put in center midfielders with touch that can maintain possession,” Quique explained to the Spanish paper. “I see the team every day and I know of the availability of those I can count on. Sometimes I make mistakes, but the issues are clear and the cards are on the table. There’s nothing to inquire about.”
Sanchez Flores then went on the attack.
“Forlán was given 35 minutes, 40 counting stoppage time, and you’ve seen his minutes,” he said, implying that the Uruguayan forward’s poor performance supported his decision to leave him off the starting XI. “You [the media] are the ones that are supposed to criticise the players, not me. When the team was winning no one talked about his benching.”
Quique is no longer hiding the obvious rift between him and Forlán, which seems to signal that one or the other, if not both, will not be returning for another season.
Reyes feels seventh place would be a failure
After a dazzling start to the year, Reyes has been off lately, not playing up to his full potential. The winger underperformed and was largely invisible against the Cantabrians in our defeat, and his thoughts on Tuesday’s match could very well have applied to his own uninspired performance.
“It’s incredible, it looks like we don’t want to make it to the European spots,” Reyes said after the match. “We had the sixth spot right there for the taking and we let it get away. On top of that, Athletic had stumbled, but we didn’t hold up our end.
“In the last two games we have not looked like Atlético. To finish in seventh would be a failure, we have to fight until the end for a fifth or sixth place finish.”
Mario’s second official goal at Atleti not enough
Canterano midfielder Mario Suarez, aka ‘Afroman’, got us off to a flying start with a lovely blast from outside the box to put us up 1-0 before we ultimately blew the lead.
“There are no excuses,” Mario told the press after the game. “We can’t get ahead in a match that we are playing our lives for and allow them to comeback against us like that. It looked like we didn’t know what we were playing for. We have to wake up. We’re responsible for everything. We’re very upset with what happened, but I insist, we’re the only ones to blame.
“We don’t know what just happened to us. Now, we have to pick ourselves back up and think about the last two games, which we must win.”
Limited defensive options against Hércules could spell trouble
With Tomas Ujfalusi suspended for our upcoming clash against Hércules after seeing his 10th yellow card of the season, our back line could be in even more trouble than it already generally is come game time Sunday.
Luis Perea will be unavailable because of his hamstring injury and Diego Godín, who was left off the match selection against Racing after sustaining a muscle strain in training Monday morning, may also not be fit in time for Sunday’s encounter.
Should Godín not make it back to the line-up, Quique would be left with the following options at the back: Filipe Luis, Alvaro Dominguez, Juan Valera, Antonio Lopez and Jorge Pulido.
Domínguez has played very poorly lately and botched the coverage of Markus Rosenberg in the play that led to Racing’s game-winning second goal. If Pulido is paired with Alvaro, he may end up forever regretting the day he finally debuted in la Liga.
Stat of the day
Of the 15 coaches that have managed the most league matches at Atlético, Quique continues to hold the worst record: 27 wins, 11 draws and 28 losses, Pedro Martin of COPE reports.