Atletico de Madrid demonstrated a masterclass in counter-attacking football yet again this season. Los Rojiblancos overcame Real Betis in their own backyard, winning with a comfortable scoreline of 1-3. The score does not do Los Verdiblancos justice, as for large parts of the match, they dominated both the ball and chances.
With the victory, Atleti leapfrogged Betis and got into fourth place, level on points with Barcelona, who have played a game less.
In light of the defending La Liga champions’ victory last night, join Madrid Universal as we evaluate the performances of each individual in this episode of the Match Ratings.
Jan Oblak: 7.25
Oblak had a quite busy night against Real Betis. The Andalusians attacked him all throughout the game, and he had to come up with several saves to keep the hosts at bay. Despite the barrage of shots he faced, he dealt with almost all of them very comfortably.
The Brazilian had an engaged night in defence, and on several occasions, the likes of Cristian Tello and Borja Iglesias tested him. For the most part, he was defensively rigid, and almost got a goal of his own with his shot hitting the frame of the goal.
Jose Gimenez: 6.5
Gimenez was relatively passive for most of the match. He performed neither poorly nor exceptionally for his side, and his defensive contributions, while present, were nothing special.
Reinildo Mandava: 6.75
Despite a very slow start from the Mozambican, he picked up his form in the second half of the game. Fortunately for him, his flank was not attacked very much, and even when it was, he was on hand to deal with Los Beticos.
Sime Vrsaljko: 6
The Croat did not have much time to impose himself in the game and was one of two early forced substitutions for Atletico de Madrid.
Marcos Llorente: 8.25
Llorente rediscovered his form from the title-winning season, and capped off a sensational second-half performance with a glorious assist to Joao Felix. Bar his individual football, he succeeded in getting into his rivals’ heads, leading to them needlessly confronting him.
Hector Herrera: 6.5
Herrera had quite a mixed game. On some occasions, he displayed brilliance on the ball. On others, his lack of composure ended up costing the team. Atletico will expect better from him ahead of their tie against Cadiz on Friday.
Rodrigo de Paul: 7.25
Following quite a bland opening 45 minutes, de Paul redeemed himself in the second period. His tackles, key passes and interceptions were key to Atleti’s fight for all three points in the Benito Villamarin.
Renan Lodi: 5.5
The Brazilian was virtually absent from the game. His contributions amounted to very little, and as such he deservedly was substituted off at halftime.
Angel Correa: 7.5
The Argentine played only 27 minutes of football for Atletico, having to leave the pitch following a gruesome injury sustained in the quarter of a way through. Despite this, he had enough time, awareness and composure to assist Joao Felix in just the second minute of the game.
Joao Felix: 8.5
The Portuguese played perhaps his best football match of the season yet. He positioned himself brilliantly to open the scoring for Atleti and double their tally in the second half of the match. He oozed confidence, and if not from a brilliant save from Claudio Bravo, he could have had a hat trick.
Yannick Carrasco: 7.25
Carrasco came on as a forced substitution in the 21st minute for Vrsaljko. Upon entering the pitch, he proved a permanent menace for the Betis defence, and if not for some slight imprecision on his part, he could have ended the night with an assist.
Antoine Griezmann: 8
The Frenchman returned to the team’s dynamics by default following Correa’s injury. His performance on the night was reminiscent of his best self. The dribble leading up to his late assist to Thomas Lemar to end the tie was a work of absolute beauty on his part.
Thomas Lemar: 7
This was far from the busiest that Lemar has been in the red and white of Atletico de Madrid. Nevertheless, his instincts and composure helped him grab a late goal to secure all three points for his side.
Javier Serrano & Luis Suarez: N/A
The pair came on late, and as a result, it is not possible to give them a rating.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia
For all the institutional and sporting catastrophes Valencia suffer from, they put up a resilient show against Real Madrid last month and held them to a draw in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup.
Having fired Gennaro Gattuso less than 48 hours ago, Los Che will be under the command of an interim coach at Santiago Bernabeu in the hope of repeating their feat from Saudi Arabia.
After all, they are struggling this season with just 20 points in 18 league appearances.
Valencia may not be the top team it used to be a couple of seasons ago, but there is a fighting spirit to the squad that makes them special.
As Real Madrid looks to make amends for their dropped points against La Real, some important considerations cross the manager’s mind regarding the clash against Los Che.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia.
1. More names at Ancelotti’s disposal
Real Madrid’s long injury list has been a thorn in Carlo Ancelotti’s feet for a long time now. While the manager has had close to five players unavailable through fitness concerns, two names were considered irreplaceable.
Daniel Carvajal is the first on that list. The Spanish International’s presence gave the club hope after Lucas Vazquez’s injury last month, but almost as if planned, the 30-year-old immediately suffered a blow in training and was forced to sit out.
For four games, Ancelotti was thus forced to field Nacho Fernandez as his right-back. The centre-back did a good job at covering out of position, however, will be pushed back to the bench on Thursday as Los Blancos celebrate the return of Carvajal.
The defender is not the only one making his way back, as Aurelien Tchouameni also received the medical all-clear earlier this week.
The French pivot hobbled off an hour into Real Madrid’s league clash against Villarreal in the first week of January and has been sidelined for close to a month.
His absence pushed his coach to try numerous permutations in midfield, but it was finally Eduardo Camavinga who stamped his authority on the position.
With Tchouameni back roaring, his place in the starting lineup seems to be written in stone. One can expect the Frenchman to be deployed alongside Toni Kroos and Dani Ceballos for his return to action on Thursday.
2. Concern shifts from right to left-back
The Merengues will finally have a natural right-back available to play against Valencia midweek. However, that does not signal the end of the Italian tactician’s trouble-riddles period.
Just when one full-back position returned to a state of normalcy, Real Madrid now have a crisis at left-back.
Ferland Mendy picked up a thigh injury earlier this week and will miss the team’s next two months of action at least. To say that this is a big blow to the club’s plans would be an understatement, for Mendy was the only natural left-back available in the squad.
David Alaba would appear to be the best-placed alternative, but the Austrian is ruled out through injury himself. Placed at a lack of options, Ancelotti confirmed in his press conference earlier today that Eduardo Camavinga would play there against Valencia.
The youngster has played in the defensive position earlier but will face the heat going up against Jose Luis Gaya at Santiago Bernabeu.
Given that Valencia’s right flank put up a memorable display when the two teams met last month, one can be certain that Camavinga’s performance can make or break Real Madrid’s night.
3. No margin for error
Less than halfway through the league season, Los Blancos already find themselves five points behind Barcelona. The wide gap is not a consequence of the defending champions’ poor form but the sheer consistency of Xavi Hernandez’s men, who cannot stop winning.
Having won the Supercopa de Espana last month, the Catalans are currently riding high on confidence. With their season heading from strength to strength, Real Madrid must hold on and wait for the right opportunity to topple the tables.
The Galacticos‘ draw against Real Sociedad added two points to the gap between the top two sides last week. At this stage, Ancelotti’s men cannot afford any further slip-ups for a larger gap would be too much for the men in white to compensate.
Every game henceforth will be a final for Real Madrid in La Liga. Three points are the bare minimum the club can walk away with from any fixture, and that mission will start from their game against Valencia.