ATM XI: Oblak, Vrsaljko, Savic (Giménez 29’), Godín (Juanfran 51’), Lucas, Koke, Saúl, Correa, Carrasco (Gabi 61’), Griezmann, Costa
VCF XI: Neto, Vezo, Garay, Gabriel, Gaya, Parejo, Kondogbia, Lato, Maksimovic, Zaza, Mina
Atlético Madrid lined up for this match in a much more attacking manner than in previous matches. Diego Simeone used Koke and Saúl in central midfield flanked by two attacking wingers in Ángel Correa and Yannick Carrasco. Costiezmann reunited after Diego Costa recovered successfully from a hamstring injury. Unfortunately there was no such recovery for Filipe Luís, so Lucas filled in along with the back four regulars Stefan Savić, Diego Godín and Šime Vrsaljko.
The early stages of the first half featured some good possession for Atlético in the final third, but Marcelino’s men pressed well and seized on giveaways. On the positive side, Valencia struggled even more to create attacking opportunities. Chances were limited, the best of the first half hour probably being Saúl’s effort from way downtown that was forced out by Neto.
Just before the half hour mark, Savić was withdrawn with what looked like a hamstring injury (those are our favorite). José Giménez entered as a result to partner his compatriot Godín. Costa continued to be a threat from set pieces, nearly opening the scoring on 34 minutes from a corner had it not been for a fabulous save by Neto.
Early in the second half, Godín sacrificed a tooth or two for the cause after Neto completely cleared him out on a free kick. This forced another defensive substitution where Juanfran entered for the captain, with Lucas taking Godín’s spot and Vrsaljko moving to the left. As a result, Atlético were going to be hurting later in the match with just the one substitution left to make.
But Ángel Correa would make sure they had a lead to protect.
At the hour mark, Atleti finally broke the deadlock when Correa made one stick in the top corner of Neto’s net. It was a sensational strike, and just the thing Correa has needed to get out of his scoring slump. Simeone’s persistence with the Argentine perhaps went on too long, but it has paid off now, as hopefully Ángelito has played himself into form. Shortly after, Carrasco was substituted for Gabi.
In a big game that Atlético led 1-0, there was only going to be one strategy from Simeone, which was to commit very few players forward and hang on to the lead. That being said, Atleti did still get a few chances on the break, but nothing substantial. Gabi came a bit too close to comfort to being sent off, but he was unlucky to have been booked so early after coming on.
Antoine Griezmann has also seemed to bring his poor decision making into 2018, this time by pausing with the ball at his feet to shush some fans urging him to start a counter in stoppage time. Regardless, Atlético held on and controlled Valencia fantastically, allowing zero shots on target and extending their lead to nine points over third place.