Real Madrid and Zidane never fail at important games. They do not give any option to their rival. They are all focused when they must win. They all go for the pressure. No one makes mistakes. They are a different team, they are winners when they can´t miss. That´s exactly what has happened this week, as they have won their three matches and overcome a possible Zidane´s sack that nobody remembers anymore. They have made it through the group stage with the first spot and now are back into the battle for the title. Many wanted to fire Zidane 10 days ago.
Madrid had a way better start into the game, no doubt about that. Cholo bet once again on his new system, a hybrid 3-5-2 where Carrasco plays as a second left back, but it did not work this time. Atlético were being dominated and were not showing any reaction. This way, Simeone had to return to his classic 4-4-2 only 30 minutes into the game in order to stop their issues on their left wing.
Zidane´s team, just as they did in their meet against Borussia Mönchengladbach, played constantly on their right side, where Carvajal and Lucas Vázquez created offensive chances constantly that ran the Belgian out and overcame Hermoso. All this added to Atlético not being focused at all made it up to the 1-0 score to halftime, as Cholo´s squad were unable to shoot. Casemiro´s goal was the reflect of the first half. He jumped over three defenders on a corner kick and no one battled for the ball. Atlético missed on intensity.
Simeone was not happy at halftime and did not hesitate to introduce substitutions in order to improve the team, but he did not really pull it off. Lody went in by Herrera, Lemar by Felipe and Correa by Carrasco. New approach but failing try to come back. Atlético improved a little bit, mostly boosted by Lemar, who had another good performance, had the chance for the equalizer from the same position where he scored against Valladolid last week, but he missed this time. Instead Carvajal put the 2-0 with a great shot outside the box and put the game away for Atlético.
However, surprising decisions from Cholo did not end there, actually had just started. The next one to go in was Saúl by Joao Félix, who barely touched the ball, but it is also true that he is the best player of the team and can make something happen any time. Do they substitute Messi at Barça when he is not playing well? This is exactly the same, no one understood that change and Simeone himself admitted after the game that he did not went out with the right approach.
Same incredulity provoked his last try, already 2-0 down, not to come back the game, but to not concede more goals. Kondogbia, a defensive midfielder went it by Suárez, who was completely missing, twenty minutes before the final whistle. That decision had only a read: lost game and let´s get out of here with just a 2-0. Comfortable win for madrid.
“I wanted to have more players to work in the middle so the game would not break. A bigger score than the 2-0 would have been to harmful for us”
Simeone on Joao´s substitution.
Madrid get into the battle:
Zidane´s team are now back to the race for the title and tighten up the distance on top, as Atlético are still first with a three point advantage over The Whites with a pending game, but Real Sociedad still has to play against Eibar this weekend. No doubt that Madrid will fight for LaLiga, but Atlético are still a candidate. The key will be to see Madrid´s evolution the next few weeks when they return to easier games once they have overcome their ‘finals’. On the other side, Atlético fall for the first time this season, but they must battle for the title.