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4 talking points from Atlético Madrid 6-0 Celtic

Some strong individual displays sent Atleti to victory.

Atletico Madrid v Celtic FC: Group E - UEFA Champions League 2023/24 Photo by Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

Atlético Madrid returned to Champions League action with a thumping 6-0 victory over Celtic to send the visitors back to Scotland with nothing to show for their trip to Spain. The win means that Atlético are top of Group E with two games still to play.

Diego Simeone’s boys ran out the convincing winners courtesy of two goals each from Antoine Griezmann and Álvaro Morata, as well as another impressive finish from Samuel Lino and a sixth goal late on from Saúl Ñíguez to wrap up the victory.

Here are four of the major talking points from the game.

1. Did Tuesday night go as well as planned?

Now, now. Ever the pessimists, we couldn’t let you get carried away.

It’s true, and we have to recognise that, that Atlético’s demolition of Celtic was a far better result than many of the 60,000-plus in attendance on Tuesday night expected to watch. However, results elsewhere saw Lazio beat Feyenoord to blow Group E of the Champions League wide open.

Celtic are now virtually eliminated, but Atleti must effectively now take something from their next game in the competition, a tricky away trip to The Netherlands to take on Feyenoord. Unbeaten to date, the Spanish side should be confident, but a Feyenoord win in Rome would have been enough to open up a four-point gap between second and third.

As such, the fight for qualification remains on.

Should results go against them in the next round, it is still feasible that Atlético could face a do-or-die play-off with Lazio at the Civítas Metropolitano in the final group game on December 13th. If Atleti fail to beat Feyenoord away and Lazio beat Celtic, there is even the possibility that Lazio and Feyenoord would only need a draw each in the final games to go through as the top two.

Just as in LaLiga, away form is hindering Atleti here. Four games to date have yielded two impressive wins in the Spanish capital — and two frustrating draws on the road. That may lead to optimism ahead of Lazio’s visit, but Atleti must be hoping to get the job done before then.

2. Antoine Griezmann could reach Luis Aragonés’ record sooner rather than later

With another brace to add to his hat-trick in Vigo only a fortnight ago, Antoine Griezmann has moved to just four goals off the club record number of strikes for Atlético Madrid, which is currently held by Luis Aragonés at 172. Griezmann currently sits on 168, including a record 36 in European competitions.

(Note: some record-keepers, including the club itself, credit Aragonés with 173 goals.)

Taking away the man of the match award despite only playing 65 minutes, Griezmann converted his chances well to score twice from 0.75 xG on the night and also created the most chances of any player involved, with four coming from the Frenchman’s boots.

Atletico Madrid v Celtic - UEFA Champions League Photo by David S.Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Griezmann has made no secret of his desire to write himself into the club’s record books, and he continues to edge closer and closer to doing so. This brace means that he has now scored 30 goals in the Champions League for Atlético, while Aragonés only managed 12 in the European Cup in a more limited format.

With the forward’s current form, it now seems only a matter of time until he breaks the club’s goalscoring record. It is imminent this season, and most likely even in the 2023 calendar year, should he maintain this level.

3. Is Samuel Lino better than Yannick Carrasco?

These are big words, but Lino returned from injury with a bang and showed a side to his game that we haven’t seen too much of to date, with an impressive finish from a difficult angle and distance to extend Atlético’s lead.

Lino, who had been absent for the past three games due to a knee injury, replaced Rodrigo Riquelme shortly after the hour mark, Even so, he recorded two assists and a goal in his 28 minutes of action and continued to look a thorn in the side of the Celtic defence, which simply couldn’t handle his energy and creativity in the left wing-back role.

“When Lino arrived, we realised that he was different, he had something complicated in his play, speed, associations, (the) goal, work, humility,” Diego Simeone said as he spoke about the wing-back in his post-match press conference, praising both him and Riquelme.

Yannick Carrasco may have had more pure individual quality, but Lino’s consistency, even coming back from injury, is a welcome change for many Colchoneros. Simeone himself may do well to appreciate that and thrive with the depth in his squad to see Riquelme and Lino challenge for the wing-back role.

4. Celtic’s sending off made the difference

The most decisive moment of this game may not have been any of the goals at all, but rather the decision to send referee Ivan Kruzliak to VAR to change a yellow card to a red card for Celtic winger Daizen Maeda on just 23 minutes.

Maeda had dived into a tackle on Mario Hermoso as the defender rampaged forward, and Atlético’s initial fury was justified as the Slovakian referee opted to change his decision and award the red card for the tackle. From that point on, the game changed completely.

Atletico Madrid v Celtic FC: Group E - UEFA Champions League 2023/24 Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Once an astute tactician, Brendan Rodgers failed to adapt his Celtic side sufficiently, and Atlético found themselves opening up gaps with ease at the Scottish defence tired. With one man down, their task was made even harder and that particularly showed down the flank, where Rodgers’ patience of waiting to half-time to make changes was not rewarded.

In the end, this scoreline reflected the game play with Atleti’s 27 shots to Celtic’s one, and 3.05 xG to Celtic’s 0.02 xG. But it was also a game which turned on a single moment — and that was the instant in which Kruzliak pulled out his red card.