ATM XI: Oblak, Isaac (Diego Costa 64’), Godín, Savić, Lucas, Koke, Thomas (Moya 87’), Gabi, Saúl, Correa, Gameiro (Torres 71’)
DEP XI: Martinez, Juanfran, Albentosa, Sidnei, Luisinho, Muntari (Borja 63’), Guilherme, Mosquera, Çolak (Bakkali 77’), Pérez, Adrián López (Andone 81’)
A painfully long international break has come to a close, but looking at Atlético Madrid’s squad offers little relief. With new injuries to Šime Vrsaljko and José Giménez, the defense is significantly weakened. This called for a debut for canterano Carlos Isaac at right back. Costa was kicked around for Spain in their friendlies and was also unfit to start against Deportivo La Coruña. The quadruple-pivot also returned, this time with Thomas and Gabi occupying the middle and Saúl and Koke on the wings.
Atlético Madrid started on the front foot, looking to press early in the match and create opportunities for their new-look strike force of Kévin Gameiro and Ángel Correa. Though there was effort, there was little penetration from Atlético, who struggled to break down Clarence Seedorf’s Deportivo.
Lucas Pérez had a great chance to open the scoring for Depor after 20 minutes, but Jan Oblak made an excellent save with his foot to keep him out. Atleti’s defense was caught out with a simple ball over the top, and with no pace at the center of defense, that was a problem. Savić misread the ball badly, but having Oblak between the sticks certainly helped him. In the space of five minutes, Lucas continued to be a nuisance, creating two shooting chances from within the box, one requiring more intervention from Oblak.
Carlos Isaac showed his Atlético DNA early, picking up a yellow on 29’ in what had been a bit of a nervy half from the debutant. However, just after the half hour mark, Atleti got the rub of the green when Saúl was fouled in the Depor box and won a penalty. Gameiro delivered from the spot to put the mattress makers up 1-0 in what had been a difficult match to that point. Atleti went into the half with the lead, but it was by no means secure.
The second half was cagey to begin with, as neither side created any spectacular chances. Eventually the debutant Isaac was withdrawn for Costa, and Thomas moved to right back.
Lucas Hernández had to show his class when Deportivo’s Borja Valle got a breakaway on 68 minutes, but the left back made a fantastic last ditch tackle. Fernando Torres entered on 71’ to partner with Costa, who looked really good after coming off the bench, creating several chances for him to score as well as create for others. Another canterano would then make his debut, with Toni Moya coming on for Thomas, who looked to have picked up a slight knock. (Wonderful.)
Atlético were very focused on seeing out the match, but in somewhat of a more encouraging way than at Villarreal. Rather than make negative substitutions, Diego Simeone brought on two strikers and a young central midfielder. This made Atleti much better on the counter than they had been last time out. This strategy prevailed and Atleti managed to hang on against the relegation strugglers.