Football tends to give back what it takes away. Atlético lost 0-2 to Levante in a game where they played extremely well, and yesterday, Sunday, they won 0-2 against Villarreal playing pretty poorly. It’s a victory that comes at a good time for them, changing the course of recent weeks just before the derby against Real Madrid. Atlético were getting stuck in a very deep rut. What started as a crisis in terms of results - with the scoreline not reflecting how well they’d played - was turning into a crisis of faith about their style of play. We saw it most markedly in Bucharest against Chelsea in the Champions League, and though we saw it too yesterday against Villarreal it was not quite as bad. They won because football is football. And they slept well last night.
Villarreal were the better side. They dominated the play and threatened Atlético’s box, above all down the right, with Samu and in the middle, where Gerard is a piranha in a bidet. But Atlético scored the goals. The first, close to the break came from a corner that fell to Lemar, left alone by the Villarreal players, who was able to cross to the back post where Savic was waiting. The chicken sexer in the booth took four minutes to decide the goal was valid. In the second half they doubled their advantage with a fine goal from João Félix, who watched the first half from the bench and who let out his emotions with a silly little outburst. Scoring a goal from time to time doesn’t seem to warrant all that, I thought.
So Villarreal finished up with no reward for their efforts and Atlético are five points ahead of Barça, who looked pretty handy against Sevilla, and six ahead of Real Madrid who host Real Sociedad this evening. That’s how things look with a week to go to the derby, and just after that Atlético will play their game in hand, against Athletic. From that point on the three sides will be at the same stage and it’ll be easier to compare. Madrid face la Real today with the good news that they get four injured players back - even more important than their starting line-up the big benefit is being able to rely on a far more solid bench than they had in Bergamo for the Champions League match against Atalanta. LaLiga is entering a crucial phase.