Youthful Atletico Madrid Side Show Future Is Bright After Important Eibar Win

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Youthful Atletico Madrid Side Show Future Is Bright After Important Eibar Win
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

It was veteran forward Fernando Torres who scored Atletico Madrid's third goal in the 3-1 victory over Eibar, and it is his contribution that will be remembered.

Torres scored, at long last, his 100th goal in Rojiblanco colours, ending an exasperating wait of 19 long, painful appearances.

But the goal and the glory, which had Torres waving a replica shirt around with 100 printed on the back, Diego Simeone fist-pumping and roaring on the sidelines, disguised a more interesting facet of the game.

The average age of Atletico's starting lineup was just 23.4 years, with only two players in the initial XI over 24, in captain Gabi and defender Jesus Gamez.

That was in part forced, with Juanfran suspended, Filipe Luis suspended, Diego Godin suspended, Stefan Savic injured and Tiago injured.

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But, with the exception of 19-year-old Lucas Hernandez, who was utilised at left-back, all of the young players picked have been used on a regular, or semi-regular basis.

Atletico have a young squad, and one that will continue to improve as time goes by.

Take, for example, Saul Niguez. The midfielder was here used as a centre-back to help cover the absences.

He made a big error, allowing Sergi Enrich to rob him of the ball and set up Keko Gontan for the opening goal, but he bounced back well from there.

Saul performed well for the rest of the match, keeping his head held high, and eventually scored the goal to send Atletico 2-1 up when he nodded home a Koke corner.

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At just 21, Simeone trusts Saul in all kinds of situations, against any side, and his form may earn him a space in the Spain UEFA Euro 2016 squad.

Koke, meanwhile, is on an upward curve after a weak first part of the season. He, too, is searching for a place in Vicente del Bosque's side in the summer. If he continues like this, he may well get it.

For Atletico to score three and Antoine Griezmann not to be among the goalscorers is rare, but it will please Simeone in a way.

A problem for his side is that goals haven't always been that easy to come by, with few others finding the net bar the French hitman.

By this time last season, after 23 games, Atletico had scored 20 headed goals, this year they have just five.

Two of those came in this clash, with Koke improving his set-piece delivery to last year's standards, and the goals followed.

Simeone was delighted with the fans after the game, saying they got the best out of his young team. He also picked out a couple of individuals to highlight. Per Sport he said:

Without doubt, [the win] was for many reasons, but the fans were impressive. I'd like them to always be like this. Today there was a different atmosphere, they felt it from the first minute. It was a bad first half of ours, but the fans were giving us the support we needed. Today we returned to play with 12.

[...]

Only Gimenez is usually picked [in the defence]. Lucas's response was very good, Saul's response was enormous, above all for how he reacted to the situation in the game.

Gimenez is one of the best defensive prospects in world football. Learning next to Uruguayan compatriot Diego Godin is the ideal education.

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Meanwhile, both Koke and Thomas Partey, who started this game, can learn plenty from Gabi.

The attack saw Griezmann, 24, supported by Yannick Carrasco, 22, and Angel Correa, 20, all of whom have huge potential.

The former is likely to lead the line for France at Euro 2016, and his time is now.

Carrasco, too, is hitting high levels and gives Atletico a different dimension—he is someone who can move as quickly as Griezmann.

Correa, meanwhile, flickers like a candle; in and out, past defenders, hard to stop.

Two of the substitutes also played a crucial role, Oliver Torres and Luciano Vietto, 21 and 22, respectively.

The former changed the game and turned the tide in Atletico's favour, and the latter crossed for Torres to bundle home in the 90th minute.

While, at present, Atletico supporters will enjoy seeing one of their favourite sons end his losing streak and celebrate his 100th goal for the club, in the future, what the likes of Vietto can bring will prove significantly more important.

Atletico Madrid

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