Despite not having three mainstays like Diego Costa, Arda Turan and Gabi, Atletico Madrid won against Villarreal and maintained the lead at the top of the La Liga table. Still one point above Barcelona and three above Real Madrid, the Colchoneros now are dreaming to upset once more the historical duo, trying to push Barcelona out of the Champions League.
Yet all to play at Vicente Calderon, but the 1-1 at Camp Nou last Tuesday gives Atletico more than 50% of chances to reach the semi-finals of the major European tournament. Meanwhile, Diego Simeone’s team are governing La Liga and by beating Villareal 1-0 at home they looked practical rather nice-to-watch. But at this point of the season what really matter is to gain points and winning is the only way to succeed.
Moreover, you wouldn’t expect a memorable display in the weekend between the two Champions League’s clashes. It’s still unclear which one is the priority for Atletico – if they have one – but having gone so far, there shouldn’t be a choice but a club should try to win the lot, although the effort of playing more competitions may leave you empty-handed in the end.
As well as Atletico, even Barça were playing with their mind to next Wednesday’s game. These are days that will define an entire season, and it’s logic that players would try to spare their mental and physical energies. Especially if they play with adrift opponents like Betis Sevilla, whose chances to avoid relegation are every week fewer.
However, Barça suffered more than expected. It took an own goal and two penalties from Lionel Messi – the second was parried by Adan who couldn’t save the following tap-in by the Argentinean – for them to beat Betis. Catalans were too sloppy and predictable and the visitors scared the Blaugrana when they went close to equalize, before Antonio Amaya’s handball led to 3-1’s penalty.
Real Madrid instead were the last to play on Saturday, and knowing that the two rivals had won obliged Carlo Ancelotti’s team to beat Real Sociedad. On paper, it wasn’t a favourable week for Madrid, but the Italian coach decided the same to gift Cristiano Ronaldo with a day-off, despite the risky trip to Donostia.
However, without their Portuguese ace, Real manage to escape from Anoeta stadium with a resounding 4-0’s win. It was not as easy as the score-line may suggest : in the first half Real didn’t shine and Real Sociedad were better, albeit the home team was rather unproductive.
After a goal-less 45 minutes the game changed: it was Asier Illarramendi – a player who spent the entire career with Real Sociedad before moving to Madrid last summer – to tap in a rebound after the goalkeeper Claudio Bravo failed to deal with Karim Benzema’s shoot. The second half was as much unspectacular. Real Madrid controlled the game while La Reala weren’t able to worry Sergio Ramos and company. Therefore Madrid cruised towards the end, finding again the net with Gareth Bale, Pepe and Alvaro Morata to seal an important result.