Antoine Griezmann excellent again as Atletico win the 'winter championship'
Atletico Madrid fought off torrential wind and rain to secure a 2-0 victory away to Celta Vigo on Sunday night and pronounce themselves "winter champions" at La Liga's halfway stage.
While Diego Simeone will be the first to say that topping the table at this stage of the campaign means nothing, the Argentine will be delighted with the determination and resolve his side have shown to grind out results and be firmly in the title mix despite not being at their best for large parts of the season.
Sunday was a different story, however. Los Rojiblancos impressed from start to finish, controlling the possession and tempo of the game at a ground where Barcelona were thumped 4-1 in September and Real Madrid outclassed despite coming away victorious.
Antoine Griezmann -- who else? -- opened the scoring after a lovely team move to give Atletico the goal they deserved just after the interval. Then, for the fourth game in a row, one of Simeone's super subs in the form of Yannick Carrasco found the back of the net to seal the points and ensure Atleti are the team to beat as we go into the second half of the La Liga season. You would be brave to bet against them winning it.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jan Oblak, 7 -- Yet another clean sheet for the Slovenian, who has only shipped an incredible eight goals in 19 La Liga games this season. Made a number of good punches from dangerous crosses and dealt with all Celta could throw at him from distance in difficult conditions. Could even try and claim an assist for Carrasco's strike following a booming clearance up field.
DF Juanfran, 7 -- The right-back was a menace going forward, as he always is, and performed solidly in defence. It's easy to see why Juanfran is Spain's first choice for the position.
DF Diego Godin, 8 -- After being snubbed by online voters for the 2015 team of the year, the Uruguayan once again showed exactly why those within the game rate him so highly. He barely put a foot wrong on Sunday, as he seldom does, leading from the back and threatening from attacking set-pieces. He's clearly the best centre-back in world football right now, as he has been for the past 18 months.
DF Jose Maria Gimenez, 7 -- Compliments Godin so well. The 20-year-old is as solid as a rock. Won almost all of his aerial battles and made a couple of crucial last-ditch interceptions. Distribution let him down slightly on a couple of occasions, which prevents a higher rating.
DF Filipe Luis, 7 -- Like Juanfran down the right, Filipe is proving to be a bastion of consistency in both an attacking and defensive sense. Linked up well with Koke and later Carrasco, while made one vital clearance at the far post while Atleti were 1-0 up and under pressure.
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MF Koke, 7 -- By his own standards it was an unassuming game, however Koke was still heavily involved in Los Colchoneros' two best moves of the match. The first saw him play a give-and-go with Griezmann as the striker fired narrowly over, while the second resulted in the opener as he sliced open the gap between Celta's midfield and defence. Still needs to improve his set-piece delivery, mind you.
MF Gabi, 7 -- With the arrivals of Mattias Kranevitter and Augusto Fernandez there is pressure on all the midfielders to perform and the skipper stepped up today. Put in a number of crunching tackles as he shielded the defence and helped recycle possession quickly.
MF Augusto Fernandez, 6 -- Mixed reaction of boos and cheers from his former fans on his return to Galicia just a week after leaving. The Argentine was solid, if unspectacular, next to Gabi in front of the back four and is getting to know his teammates little by little. Replaced by Carrasco 10 minutes after the break.
MF Saul Niguez, 7 -- Continued his recent upturn in form with another action-packed display. Started on the right but looked more comfortable when moved inside following a tactical reshuffle in the second period.
FW Antoine Griezmann, 9 -- Down on the team-sheet as a forward however the side's talisman was so much more than that. Often it was the Frenchman who was dropping deep to collect the ball from the backline before turning and running at the Celta defence. Likewise, on more than one occasion it was Griezmann who swept up on the edge of his own box as both sides battled for the second ball, showing unbelievable amounts of energy to track back and do a job for the team.
The 24-year-old fired narrowly over in the first period and capped a fine individual display by playing a sumptuous one-two with strike partner Luciano Vietto after good work from Koke to once again grab the all-important opener for Atleti.
FW Luciano Vietto, 7 -- Finally an Atletico Madrid striker has done something of note! Spinning off the shoulder of the last defender, he demonstrated both composure and technique to square across the face of goal in between the defenders for Griezmann to tap home the opener. The Argentine came off with 15 to go for the more physical presence of Jackson Martinez but can be pleased with his efforts.
Yannick Carrasco (for Augusto), 7 -- The Belgian was electric from the moment he came on. Running directly at the Celta defence, he went close from distance on a couple of occasions before putting the result beyond doubt with 10 minutes to go with a well-taken goal.
Jackson Martinez (for Vietto), NR -- His strength and height caused a mix up in the defence, which led to the second goal.
Jesus Gamez, (for Griezmann) NR -- Brought on with a few minutes remaining to help see the result out
Joseph is a sports journalist based in the Spanish capital and covers Atletico Madrid regularly. Follow him on Twitter @Joe_in_espana.