Athletic Bilbao vs. Atletico Madrid: 6 Things We Learned
Athletic Bilbao hosted Atletico Madrid at the new San Mames, recalling that the visitors were the first team to win at their new ground.
Atletico knew they had to win to regain top spot following FC Barcelona's 1-0 win over Espanyol earlier in the day.
Both sides entered the game in fine form; Athletic were unbeaten in six matches, while Atletico had not suffered defeat in the last five, including four victories.
Despite Athletic taking an early lead through Iker Muniain, Diego scored for the fifth consecutive match in a row to level proceedings. Then, just five minutes before the hour mark, Koke nodded in the winner, which puts Los Colchoneros back to the top of La Liga.
Let's take a look at six things we learned from Atletico's 2-1 victory.
Arda Turan Is as Crucial as Anyone for Atletico
The Turkish midfielder started the match on the bench, and his absence was evident.
Atletico lacked creativity without Turan, as they implemented a more direct approach that did not work from the start.
Diego Simeone opted to give the 27-year-old a rest ahead of their crucial quarter-final first leg against Barca on Tuesday, but it almost cost his team in the league.
He eventually came on after 57 minutes, and the tempo almost immediately tuned back into Atletico’s familiar rhythm.
Atletico Are Officially a Top Team
Not just because of another win but for the way the home fans treated them, Atletico are officially one of Spain’s big boys. The San Mames was electric, demanding every call as if they were entitled to it.
The only teams that used to get that sort of treatment were Real Madrid and Barcelona, but now Atletico have entered that bracket.
San Mames is known as the Lion’s Den, and the local faithful were roaring for every decision, but it was not enough to tame Diego Simeone’s side.
Filipe Luis Not Going to Brazil Would Be a Disgrace
If Atletico’s Filipe Luis does not get called up to the Brazilian squad for the World Cup, it will be a shambolic decision.
The ever-consistent left-back is not expected to get the call from Luiz Felipe Scolari—for no rational reason.
On top of being one of the most consistent defenders in La Liga, Filipe Luis offers so much going forward too.
The 28-year-old was impressive as ever against Athletic, causing a constant threat in the attacking third whilst keeping Markel Susaeta’s threat to a minimum at the other end.
If Marcelo is seriously considered a better option for the Selecao, I highly doubt that "Big Phil" watches much of Simeone’s team.
Whoever Questions La Liga’s Quality Does Not Watch La Liga
“This game has had more twists and turns than Melrose Place,” Ray Hudson colorfully said.
The game was constantly in the balance with an immense effort from both teams. The match had just about everything.
It was an unpredictable, end-to-end encounter that could have had a completely different outcome depending on certain key moments.
While the same cannot be said of the officials, the players put on a fine spectacle, which served as a reminder—if any was needed—that La Liga is as competitive as any other league.
Diego Costa Is World Class
Despite another excellent campaign for Los Colchoneros, some still hold lingering doubts as to whether the Brazilian, sorry, Spanish striker is actually that good or is just having a prolonged run of form.
There cannot be any doubt that Costa is one of the best strikers in the world. He lacks absolutely nothing. Formidable hold-up play, beastly strength and clinical finishing—he has the lot.
Chelsea are speculated to be interested in his services. Based on his performance, they should tie him up and fly him back to Stamford Bridge to sign a contract.
He was key again, scoring the equalizer—his sixth goal in his last five games.
Atletico Are No. 1 When It Comes to Mentality
Not many teams can go a goal down in one of the most heated atmospheres in Spain and maintain their character to get back into the game.
Simeone has his team so well-drilled that they are seemingly unfazed in adversity.
Barca crumbled when they visited San Mames in December, going down 1-0 to a goal from the same player who scored on Saturday. Real Madrid could only manage a draw, but Atletico are different.
While Barca and Real were rattled by the intensity, Atletico continued in their familiar approach and eventually got their reward.
The league title could be decided by the current top two’s respective showings away at Bilbao.