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Juventus FC 1-0 Atlético Madrid: Morning-after notes and observations

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It all comes down to matchday six.

Juventus v Atletico Madrid: Group D - UEFA Champions League Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

(Apologies for the delay in post-match coverage, dear reader. The work-life balance was uneven on Tuesday, and as a result we could not offer immediate post-match coverage. Whoever doesn’t jump keep reading is a Madridista.)

  • Hey, at least it was close this year.
  • Comforting to know Atlético still can’t pull one over on Cristiano Ronaldo even when he doesn’t do much.
  • Not to say this game was a 90-minute slog, but the only way to start here is with the only real highlight:

Paulo Dybala’s free kick always had a chance. He’s an extremely talented player — can you believe Juventus tried to run him out of town this summer? — and the Atlético Madrid side on which he preyed is now abysmal defending set pieces. Not that kind of abysmal, either.

Atlético’s defense in open play was about as compact and organized as we’ve seen this season, but it conceded in a sixth straight game nonetheless. Atleti have allowed seven goals in that stretch — four from dead-ball situations and two in just the past four days. It’s all made for one very pissed-off Jan Oblak.

  • Not coincidentally, star center back José Giménez has missed this month-plus funk, which has seen Atlético win just once. Stefan Savić has been out even longer.

The Felipe Monteiro-Mario Hermoso pairing is running on fumes, just as it was three weeks ago. It was Hermoso who gave away the foul preceding Dybala’s goal — the latest indication that the 24-year-old’s leap to Atleti from Espanyol was too much, too soon. To his credit, Felipe has turned in some rugged performances and won six aerial duels on Tuesday night in a quality outing. But even he has struggled at times without getting so much as a breather due to the injuries.

  • João Félix is good.

  • An Into the Calderón commenter made this point, which is a good one: while the mattress makers gave an okay account of themselves in Italy, it was a more reactive display rather than a proactive one.

Diego Simeone turned away rather quickly from his conservative XI — he ushered on Félix, Ángel Correa and Thomas Lemar in a 10-minute span after halftime. His side pressed with much more vigor and hunger but could not generate high-quality chances. Álvaro Morata was bullied all night by Leonardo Bonucci and (a sensational) Matthijs de Ligt.

Sure, Atlético outshot Juventus 15-6, but the shots on target were even at two apiece. At one point the visitors went 28 minutes without a shot, bridging the first and second halves — a stretch which decided the contest.

Juventus v Atletico Madrid: Group D - UEFA Champions League Photo by Marcio Machado/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images
  • Atlético’s Champions League away record since a 4-2 win at Bayer Leverkusen in February 2017 is putrid: two wins, five draws, five losses. Seven goals for, 16 against.
  • Securing a place in the Round of 16 isn’t complicated at all — that is, if Atlético beat the eliminated Lokomotiv Moscow at home on Dec. 11. Any other result will open the door for Leverkusen to sneak through in second place. Even though the Rojiblancos have the head-to-head advantage over their German rivals, they may need Juventus to do them a solid via a win or a draw in two weeks’ time. Otherwise...

I mean, the run to the Europa League crown two seasons ago was fun and all, but nobody wants that again. Nobody.

  • AS was not impressed. Hermoso didn’t even get a rating.
  • Strangely, I feel Atlético stand a better chance to beat Barcelona on Sunday than it did Juventus on Tuesday.