Atlético Madrid scored for the first time in three games on Saturday at Balaídos. That strike from Luis Suárez along with a late Yannick Carrasco header were enough to help Diego Simeone’s side to all three points, and the rojiblancos have now taken eight from 12 available. They remain a work in progress, but haven’t lost this season. They have struggled in front of goal, but have only conceded once this season.
Here are the main talking points after the 2-0 win against Celta Vigo on Saturday afternoon.
Luis Suárez and Diego Costa start up front, and the latter leaves injured
Simeone has said that the Uruguayan and the Brazilian-Spanish striker could coexist. He put his money where his mouth is on Saturday and picked the pair to lead the line against Celta. The plan was simple; Koke looked for Costa in the channel and Suárez waited for supply. Suárez can’t run the channels anymore and Costa has lost his touch in front of goal, so Simeone had to sacrifice João Félix in order to make his side function.
That’s how Atlético scored the first goal, with help from Manu Sánchez, who pulled the ball back to Suárez before the finish. We didn’t get to see Costa and Suárez as the game opened up after the former pulled up lame with what looked like a hamstring injury. He looked distraught as he made his way off the field, but was chuckling with Suárez and Ángel Correa by game’s end.
We will have to wait for word of his injury before trying to figure out how Cholo might approach the lack of available strikers in his side.
Bayern Munich could have a field day
Atlético kept a clean sheet, but they were under some pressure. Celta beat Atlético in xG 1.9 to 1.51 and had at least three very good chances. Simeone acknowledged the problem and also hinted at a more solid approach against the best team in the world at the moment.
“We will try to find solutions for the first half problems against Bayern,” the manager said.
Right now, the idea that Atlético are a dogged, defensive side is just that: an idea. Manu Sánchez, a more adventurous left-back, was taken off early in the second half and Mario Hermoso replaced him. Simeone said after the game that having him out wide made Atlético more solid. It is this balance with which the coach has trouble. The eternal question with Cholo’s Atlético is “how can he get the most defensively-solid side without curbing the instincts of his most creative players?”
João Félix plays a small but important role
Félix started on the bench on Saturday. He came on for Costa after the injury and showed some beautiful skill to create the second goal. The shot he rattled off the crossbar was unlucky not to go in, but Carrasco swept in the rebound with his head.
Simeone was asked after the game if Félix lacked the “commitment” needed to feature more prominently.
“I count on him when I see fit and at the end of the game we saw the João that we needed,” Simeone said.
Being the most expensive signing in the history of the club comes with close scrutiny and Félix has probably avoided the worst of it. But when he doesn’t start, it is news and there’s no way around it. The Portugal international needs to get stronger and stamp his authority on this side so he is undroppable. He’s not quite there yet, though.
Félix was Atlético’s most important player in the opening games of the season, but it is apparent that after losing Thomas Partey, Simeone has to find a new best 11.