Last Saturday, Atlético Madrid had yet to resume play in LaLiga and sat sixth in the standings. That’s an uncomfortable place to be, and the team had to jump worthy rivals in Getafe and Real Sociedad just to get fourth — Sevilla were one point ahead, in third.
Fast forward a week, and Atlético have made up ground. Los Colchoneros are level on points with Sevilla (which drew at Barcelona on Friday night) but third via goal difference. A late-night 1-0 win over Real Valladolid took them four points clear of Getafe and five clear of La Real (which has a game in hand).
Diego Simeone changed the team once more, making seven alterations from the side which thrashed Osasuna midweek. The coach eventually hauled off three of the new guys, and his final change was the most impactful. Vitolo — who made the bench midweek but was still fighting off a minor injury — scored within eight minutes of entering the match, as his header from a set piece looped just over the line. From there Atleti saw it out with little fanfare.
More notes below.
- Despite his valiant effort, Valladolid’s Kiko Olivás could not keep out Vitolo’s header, preceded by an unfortunate error from backup goalkeeper José Caro. Koke had taken the corner — which wasn’t a great one — and Diego Costa may have nudged the ball away from the onrushing keeper (who should have simply shifted to his left instead). From there, the former Spain international was in a good position to take the chance.
- That was Vitolo’s first goal in any competition since Sept. 1.
- Atlético have not lost with Koke in the team in 2020 — seven wins, four draws.
- Simeone does not often hand significant opportunities to canteranos, but he elected to give 19-year-old Manu Sánchez his second start of the season in order to rest Renan Lodi. The left back has some off-ball work to do and isn’t ready to be Lodi’s deputy, but he held his own with three interceptions and he completed 89 percent of his passes, including one key pass. His 68 touches were more than any Valladolid player. The kid’s contract runs until 2023, but he’s progressing quickly toward a first-team role somewhere.
- A good night for Mario Hermoso, too, who took lots of touches, passed simply and made a team-high four clearances.
- Marcos Llorente looks so confident and comfortable moving around the attacking third and nearly set up another Costa goal (though it would have been offside). But he has been more lethal as a super-sub than as a starter.
- Siri, find “Thomas Lemar’s confidence.”
- Really hope Saúl enjoyed the night off. Chances are he won’t get another one.
ATM XI Oblak; Trippier, Giménez, Hermoso, Manu Sánchez; Thomas, Herrera (Koke 56’), Llorente (Vitolo 72’), Lemar (Carrasco 56’); Félix (Correa 63’), Morata (Costa 63’).
Goal Vitolo 81’
VLL XI Caro; Antoñito, Olivas, Javi Sánchez (Ünal 82’), Raúl García (no, not that one); Míchel, Fede San Emeterio (Alcaraz 46’), Fernandes (Kike Pérez 74’); Hervías, Waldo Rubio (Plano 72’), Guardiola (de la Fuente 46’).