Player Ratings: Atletico Madrid draw raises selection questions
The past seven days have been ones of contrast for Atletico Madrid. Following the high of the past Saturday's derby victory over Real Madrid came the low of the 3-2 defeat to Olympiakos in the Champions League. It was only fitting then, that this weekend's match against Celta Vigo ended in a 2-2 draw.
After conceding a freak first goal, Los Colchoneros roared back into the game and took the lead in typical fashion -- two set piece goals put away by their defenders -- and looked set for the win. A clumsy challenge from Joao Miranda, however, allowed the visitors back into the game, and despite a whole host of chances, some questionable refereeing decisions and two goals ruled out for offside saw the match finish on level terms.
On another day it might have been different, and as it is, Atleti remain unbeaten this season, but their eight points collected from two wins and two draws from four games should, in reality, be 12. With Real Madrid seeming to find their groove and Barcelona cruising, it is matches such as this in which the reigning champions cannot afford to drop points if they are to stand any chance of defending their title.
Miguel Angel Moya, 6 -- The usually reliable keeper was caught out for the first goal and perhaps was guilty of being too anxious to collect the ball and help his side get off to a good start. He redeemed himself with a fine save from the second half while at 2-1 and did very little wrong in the 90 minutes.
Diego Godin, 7 -- After a shaky showing in midweek against Olympiakos, the Uruguayan was back to his usual self. He thwarted attacks and proved himself to be a threat in the opposition box, as he buried a trademark powered header from a Gabi corner. Blameless for the first goal.
Joao Miranda, 6 -- The Brazilian, like partner Godin, was better than in the Champions League, and despite scoring a top header from a Koke cross, the centre back was guilty of a brainless challenge, as he gave away the penalty which led to Celta equalising at 2-2.
Cristian Ansaldi, 6 -- Another who failed to cover himself in glory in Greece, he was preferred to Guilherme Siqueira, and despite always being a willing runner up and down the left, putting in a couple of decent crosses and linking well with Koke on occasions, he spurned a close-range opportunity on his weaker foot in the first half.
Juanfran, 7 -- "Mr. Steady" on the right side gave his usual solid defensive performance and linked up well with Antoine Griezmann and Arda Turan going forward. As usual, you know what you get with Juanfran.
Gabi, 7 -- The Atleti skipper needed a good performance and came up with one, of sorts. Although not at his absolute fluent best, the 31-year-old was much improved on his past couple of outings and kept the game ticking over while disturbing the opposition's rhythm in the middle of the park. He swung in an inviting ball that saw Godin make it 2-1, and it looks as if his past couple games were merely a blip.
Tiago, 7 -- The Portuguese midfielder was preferred to Mario Suarez -- who was particularly poor in Athens -- and gave his usual all-action display alongside Gabi in what looks to be the best central midfield partnership the Los Rojiblancos have. He had a good header saved at death in an almost carbon copy of his opener against Real Madrid and must surely now be the favoured partner for the skipper in the big games.
Koke, 6 -- The youngster battled well on the left side of midfield but was not at his brilliant best. He linked well with Ansaldi on occasions and provided a pinpoint cross for Miranda to nod home and almost got lucky with an over-hit cross in the dying stages.
Antoine Griezmann, 7.5 -- Atleti's best performer on the night, the Frenchman was surprisingly taken off on the 65-minute mark in what you can only assume was a preplanned change for Raul Garcia. There was bemusement in the crowd, and it is easy to see why, as all of the home side's good attacking opportunities had come through him. In addition to several touches of class, he provided Ansaldi with a clear chance in the first period and went close with a couple of headers before seeing a first-time shot saved after the break.
Arda Turan, 6 -- Some nice touches from the Turkish midfielder, but there was not enough shown in the final third to indicate he is back to his usual stellar self. A willing runner in behind, Raul Jimenez's inability to hold the ball up nullified his attacking prowess.
Raul Jimenez, 4 -- Simeone showed faith in the big Mexican and surprisingly banked on him to replace the injured Mario Mandzukic. Unfortunately, Jimenez only really succeeded in showing how much the Croatian international will be missed. Although he had a header ruled out for offside, his touch was heavy, and he struggled to link up with the wandering duo of Turan and Griezmann. He gave the ball away and got caught on his heels far too much. A guilt-edged chance spurned in the second half did not help his cause, and as a consequence, the Vicente Calderon faithful were on his back.
Raul Garcia (for Griezmann), 6 A surprise omission from the starting XI, Garcia put himself about and showed energy for the 25 minutes he was on the pitch, and when moved into a makeshift striker position he caused a number of problems for the Celta back line. A must for the XI midweek against Almeria.
Alessio Cerci (for Jimenez), N/A A decent cameo from the Italian, who offered more than the player he replaced despite being on the pitch for only 10 minutes. He had a strong penalty shot turned down and a goal disallowed with almost the last touch of the evening.