In the week where Atlético Madrid’s Champions League hopes could have come to a close, they then had to host high-flying Eibar, in a match, which Atleti have never lost, but the matches are never easy. Very little rotation occurred in this match, other than Thomas taking over at right-back while Lucas Hernandez replaced Stefan Savic in the center of defense. Ángel Correa was incorrectly named on the team sheet prior to kickoff, and Yannick Carrasco started instead.
The first half of this match was quite typical of many Atleti performances this season, they were slow to get anything going, and had to do a lot of defending in the first half. Both teams were struggling for chances, Eubar edging it in the first half, requiring Oblak to make a few saves. Overall it was an uneventful half, except for the Atleti set piece which clearly bounced off both of the Eibar defender’s arms, but no penalty was given. Nico Gaitan was hooked at halftime after another uninspiring performance, where he had opportunities, but his passing was not up to standard. Increasingly it looks like this will be Gaitan’s one and only season with Atleti.
After the half, Fernando Torres replaced Gaitan, and made a huge difference for Atleti in the second half. By having someone that they could play off of, Atleti were able to get more moves going offensively, showing the need for contrast in strikers up front. Too often this season Griezmann has been paired with a similar, quick, small striker, and they have been ineffective, but with Torres, he gives another option. Today was probably the best Torres performance in weeks, as he was contributing all over the pitch, setting up shots and opportunities to get forward.
On 70 minutes, Diego Godín made a gut-busting run down the left wing and pulled it back for Saúl who finished wonderfully from around 20 yards. The goal brought a huge wave of relief around the stadium, as well as with the players, especially Godín, who jumped into the arms of Diego Simeone. After that, Atleti made more chances for themselves, trying to get the insurance goal to end the match, but it never came. On 89 minutes, Godín was booked, and then again on 91 minutes. This means he will be suspended for Atleti’s trip to Sevilla to face Real Betis, where they only need one point to secure third from Betis’ bitter rivals.
Tiago and Correa came on for Carrasco and Griezmann, neither of which really had much time to impact the game, except for in the final action of the game. Eibar were trying to push their man-advantage and get the late equalizer, when a shot that was going in from Eibar was blocked out of the way by Tiago, looking like his old self again. Tiago may play some role mid-week, but it’s good to see him back at full fitness and seemingly sharp.
Atleti need a much better performance to have any sort of hope on Wednesday, and will have to really fight for each other. This win will help the confidence, but the players surely know the nearly impossible task they have on their hands.