In the first half of the season there was no keeping Radamel Falcao down.
Whether you looked one way or the other, the Tiger was scoring goals. Most notable for the attention it drew was the superb hat-trick in the UEFA Super Cup against Chelsea, but there were more. Much more.
In the days building up to that final in Monaco, the Colombian smashed in three against Athletic Bilbao. Those goals, plus the ones against Chelsea, were part of a 10-game scoring streak—it also included his first ever free kick; a stoppage-time winner against Real Sociedad.
Into December, and the goals were still flowing. Five were scored in one match against a hapless Deportivo la Coruna at the Vicente Calderon, and he opened the scoring against Barcelona at Camp Nou, even if Atletico were to go on to lose 4-1.
5 - Falcao is the first player to score five goals in a game in La Liga since Morientes against Las Palmas in 2002. Unstoppable12/9/2012, 7:30:18 PM
If the 27-year-old didn't need the winter break, he certainly didn't need to pull up holding his hamstring in his second game of the new calendar year.
Fortunately, fears of a layoff for up to a month were soon eased by the news that the injury to Atleti's star striker was not the torn hamstring initially feared.
He returned to Los Rojiblancos' starting lineup two weeks later, but was nowhere near the levels he had set prior to his brief spell out. Atletico beat Real Betis 1-0, Brazilian Diego Costa got the goal and Falcao was withdrawn after 80 minutes—minutes in the bank, though, as the old cliche goes.
In the next two games—against Rayo Vallecano and Rubin Kazan—Falcao, who made his debut in the Colombian league aged 13 (via CNN), completed the full 90 minutes. He scored one goal, against Rayo, but was still not quite looking like the Tiger that could have his pick of the World's top clubs this summer (via the Telegraph).
A further four games and three goals down the line, and the signs suggest he is set to peak again for the run in, as Atletico get set to battle with illustrious neighbors Real Madrid for not just second place, but the Copa del Rey too.
Against Malaga on Sunday he didn't score, but neither did anyone else as the two sides played out a 0-0 draw, a result which certainly wasn't unexpected given both sides' clean-sheet ratios.
The injury is well and truly behind him now, he's had more than a run of games to regain his match fitness, and Atletico's next six games look like favorable fixtures for Falcao to regain his killer instinct; Real Sociedad (h), Osasuna (a), Valencia (h), Getafe (a), Granada (h) and Sevilla (a).
Then comes the occasion when he can outdo all his previous goalscoring feats and ensure he is elevated above legend status at the Vicente Calderon: the match against Real Madrid.
It's been 22 league games, dating back to 1999, since Atleti last beat their great rivals, but if they can get Falcao back to his pre-Christmas clinical best, they'll fancy their chances at beating them again. After all, they've won 13 out of 13 at home in La Liga.
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