"Attack!", they said. "It will be fine," they said. It was actually better than fine as Atletico thrashed Sporting Gijon 5-0 on Saturday afternoon at the Vicente Calderon.
Atletico Madrid were two to the good after four minutes after Diego Simeone decided to play in a more attacking style than we have become accustomed to seeing under the Argentine.
Saul and Koke made up an exciting, young central midfield as Yannick Carrasco, Nico Gaitan, Antoine Griezmann and Kevin Gameiro filled the remaining midfield and attacking roles. Meanwhile, Sime Vrsaljko got his first start at the club at right-back.
First, it was Antoine Griezmann who broke free following good work from Kevin Gameiro and finished coolly beyond Cuellar after two minutes. The fans had barely stopped cheering before Kevin Gameiro swung his right foot at the ball and curled it beyond the helpless keeper to make it two in four minutes.
Atletico continued to push forward and upset Sporting Gijon, who had little or no answer for the swash-buckling home side’s attack.
They thought they had made it three after 27 minutes but a slick move involving Griezmann, Filipe Luis and Gameiro was halted when the ref blew for offside. Sporting took the ball out of the back of the net and carried on, glad to not be behind by three in the first half.
That would not last long, however, as just four minutes later, Griezmann found himself at the edge of the square and with no Sporting defenders sensing the urgency to close him down, he decided to have a go and he curled it home expertly, leaving Cuellar with no chance yet again.
At half-time, Atletico Madrid were cruising and it seemed Sporting were ready to call it a day and head back up north with their tails between their legs.
Atletico started the second half with Augusto in place of Yannick Carrasco and with the Argentine dictating things in midfield, it was a far less gung-ho approach. Calculated and controlling might have been a better word to describe it as the home side never truly looked that dangerous but also didn’t give their opponents any chances either.
If the game was not already wrapped up at 3-0, it most certainly was on 72 minutes when substitute Fernando Torres poked home a dangerous ball across the box by Angel Correa. It was 4-0 and Atletico were home and dry.
Diego Godin could have made it five after thundering forward and exchanging a one-two with Angel Correa before opting to pull it back instead of have the shot on himself.
Fernando Torres made it five when Nico Gaitan was pulled down in the penalty area as normal time was about to expire. He stepped up and buried the penalty for his second of the day despite only coming on as a second half substitute.
As the ref blew the whistle for full-time, Atletico may have realised they learned nothing about themselves and were not challenged in any meaningful way but there was many things achieved on the day.
They picked up an important three points and had the chance to rest Juanfran amongst others, while also substituting Griezmann and Carrasco ensuring they did not play anywhere close to a full 90 minutes. Atletico will be in good shape against Barcelona and will need to be after the Catalans hit 12 in their last two games.