A game which promised explosives in the end offered very little as Atletico and Real Madrid played out a goalless draw in Saturday night’s Madrid derby.
In truth, it rarely looked like any other outcome was likely, although Jan Oblak made good saves from Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema to preserve parity, while Atletico didn’t register a single shot on target at the other end – the third consecutive game in which Real have prevented their keeper from making a save.
Both teams looked pretty pleased to take a point from the game…and that kicks off our talking points to emerge from the action.
Settling for a stalemate?
This was the fair result on the night, with neither team deserving to lose the game or doing enough to win it.
Indeed, there was a sense that both camps would be happy to settle for a draw even an hour before kick-off, when the teamsheets were handed in to reveal that Diego Simeone had opted for a strong midfield with Thomas Partey partnership Saul and Koke while Thomas Lemar was left on the bench, while Zinedine Zidane dropped James Rodriguez in favour of the more defensive and combative Fede Valverde.
The consequence was a game that took place mainly in the middle third of the pitch, looking like an encounter that both teams were keener not to lose rather than take any risks in pursuit of victory. The outcome allows Atletico to stay hot on the heels of their cross-city rivals and edge a point ahead of Barcelona, while Real are still unbeaten in the league and have now kept three consecutive clean sheets.
The latter stages were played out with a sense of inevitability that no goals would arrive, with no final frantic charge or desperate defending, and a late winner would have been unmerited at either end.
Thomas brings the Partey
Atletico’s midfield has been rather unsettled in the past couple of years, with the departure of former skipper Gabi and Manchester City’s capture of Rodri leaving undisputed starters Saul and Koke without consistent partners.
Many players and formations have been tried, with Thomas Lemar, Vitolo and Angel Correa all getting regular chances in the middle four last season, before Marcos Llorente and Hector Herrera were added in the summer to add further competition.
Another player who has been in and out of the team, however, currently looks more than capable of nailing down a place in the side and becoming one of the first names on Diego Simeone’s teamsheet: Thomas Partey was immense in this fixture, continuing his strong start to the campaign with a performance combining controlled physicality, game awareness and astute passing to catch the eye in the centre of the field.
The Ghana international started less than half of Atletico’s games over the last couple of seasons, but on this evidence he is ready to take a big step forward this season and potentially become one of La Liga’s most commanding central midfielders.
Thomas Partey’s game by numbers vs. Real Madrid:— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) September 28, 2019
90% pass accuracy
49 forward passes
9 ball recoveries
Phenomenal performance. 🇬🇭 pic.twitter.com/ZU7qOkQbNK
Hazard still struggling
This was another lacklustre game for Eden Hazard, who had plenty of possession down the left wing but looked off the pace and was regularly caught in possession, struggling to make any inroads against Atletico’s disciplined defence.
In fact, he was outshone down his flank by another former Premier League player, with Kieran Trippier’s regular surges down the wing taking a central part of the action and forcing Real into several uncomfortable clearances. Hazard’s display, meanwhile, was summed up by an embarrassing moment early in the second half when poor control saw him commit a silly handball, and before long he was replaced by James Rodriguez having done little to live up to his superstar billing.
Suffering an injury on the eve of the new campaign to miss a month of action certainly didn’t help his settling-in process, but it’s now time for Hazard to step up, find his rhythm and show why Real were so determined to pursue him for more than a year. If he doesn’t, he won’t be staying in the starting eleven for much longer.
Take-ons completed in the first half of the Madrid derby:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 28, 2019
Kieran Trippier: 2
Eden Hazard: 1
Things have changed. 😅 pic.twitter.com/9OjF0bJdEk
Atletico and Real shared the spoils with a goalless draw in the Madrid derby at the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday night.
Most of the action was contested in the midfield with few clear chances at either end, but Jan Oblak was the busier of the keepers with a couple of key saves.
Check out how everyone performed with our full player ratings.
Jan Oblak 8. Made excellent saves diving to his left to deny Kroos and Benzema, with the latter particularly impressive.
Kieran Trippier 7. Caught the eye up and down the right, delivering a series of dangerous crosses and defending well.
Stefan Savic 7. Always in the right place to make clearances and challenges, giving a real centre-back’s display.
Jose Gimenez 7. Lion-hearted and focussed display in the back line, ensuring neither man nor ball would pass.
Renan Ledo 5. Struggled against Bale’s pace and power, rarely getting forward and taken off after an hour.
Koke 6. Did a good mopping up job, breaking up Real’s approach play, and tidy if unspectacular in possession.
Saul 7. Covered lots of ground as he started in midfield and finished at left-back. Came close with a header.
Thomas Partey 9. Did a great job protecting his back four, dominating the midfield, and was constructive on the ball.
Vitolo 6. Worked hard, regularly cutting in from the left, but lacked end product and was taken off at half-time.
Joao Felix 6. Dragged an early chance wide and fired a long-range shot off target. Replaced after 70 minutes.
Diego Costa 6. Created chances for Felix and Correa with good passes, but rarely involved otherwise.
Angel Correa 6. Replaced Vitolo at the break and was bright and sharp, heading a half-chance over the top.
Thomas Lemar 6. Introduced after an hour, but was unable to make much impact despite some bursts through the middle.
Marcos Llorente 6. Brought on to face his former team for the final 20 minutes and was steady in midfield.
100 - Thomas Partey in the first half of his 100th game for Atletico in LaLiga:— OptaJose (@OptaJose) September 28, 2019
95% passing accuracy (38/40)
100% duels success (4/4)
Thibaut Courtois 6. Made an excellent parry from a dangerous Trippier cross but didn’t have any real saves to make.
Dani Carvajal 6. A relatively restrained display, focussing mainly on defensive duties and completing them well.
Raphael Varane 7. Struggled at times with the movement of Felix, but strong closer to goal and defended his area well.
Sergio Ramos 7. Composed and controlled, doing a good job of shackling Costa and rarely looking troubled.
Nacho 6. Filled in at left-back and was given a stiff examination by Trippier but linked up well with the attack.
Fede Valverde 6. A tidy if understated display in the centre of midfield, working hard before being replaced by Modric.
Casemiro 6. Strong defensive presence to help keep Atletico at arm’s length, but not a factor coming forward.
Toni Kroos 7. Sharp and involved in midfield and twice came close with long-range shots.
Gareth Bale 6. Showed positive intent down the right, but was wayward with his shooting, firing a good chance too high.
Karim Benzema 6. Couldn’t get involved in build-up against an organised back line, but came close with a great header.
Eden Hazard 5. Made a poor start, regularly squandering possession, and really didn’t improve before being replaced.
Luka Modric 6. Made his comeback from injury with 25 minutes left, and showed some bright touches around the box.
James Rodriguez 6. Came on for Hazard with 15 minutes left but made little impression as the game petered out.
Luka Jovic N/A. Replaced Benzema with three minutes remaining but barely had a kick.
Another curious Barcelona display was highlighted with goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen pulling off the pass of the match during their 2-0 win at Getafe.
The German’s long ball forward in the 41st minute found Luis Suarez who broke the deadlock at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez.
Junior Firpo then doubled the advantage on the other side of the break, tucking away a rebound after Carles Perez’s effort from range was parried into his path.
The result handed Ernesto Valverde’s side their first away victory of the season but did little to reassure their fans after a poor start to the campaign.
LIFE IN OLD DOG
The demands from various sections of the Catalunya support for Suarez to be dropped have never been more pronounced than they were ahead of this clash. The striker had only scored in one outing this season with his performances deemed significantly below par, patience was wearing thin.
However, Valverde has stood by the former Liverpool forward, citing a four-week long injury lay-off and scant playing time for his discernible lack of sharpness. That said, injuries to Lionel Messi, Ousmane Dembele and Ansu Fatu hardly left the Barca boss with an alternative to keeping faith in the 32-year-old.
With the opening goal at Getafe, Suarez took a step towards a mini resurgence. It was not a strong enough performance to silence his critics but at least he established that he’s got some life in him yet.
‘Fine-tuning’ – as Valverde put it – is still required. Suarez had three excellent one-on-one opportunities and only converted one of them. The encouraging bit though is that he had the sharpness to run in behind and latch on to those passes, even if he didn’t capitalise on two of them and was caught offside on a couple of other occasions.
BARCA CRACKS REMAIN
It does not bode well for the champions of Spain that their goalkeeper made arguably their biggest contributions in both attack and defence. Ter Stegen made a couple of outstanding saves to keep Getafe at bay and even took matters into his own hands in possession.
The Germany international was quick off his line to sweep up behind his centre-backs in the 22nd minute before finding Suarez with a superb ball over the top. In doing so, he became the first Barcelona keeper to provide an assist in the 21st century.
His pass saw the Catalans break the deadlock moments before half-time and was almost symbolic of how far they’ve fallen from their lofty ideals in terms of their playing philosophy. The famed tiki-taka brand was nowhere in sight, instead replaced – at least momentarily – by some good old fashioned route one football.
In the absence of Messi, Fati and Dembele, Barca were severely lacking in creativity with no one able to better Ter Stegen’s tally of one key pass. Goals came from a long ball forward and the left-back turning in a rebound. Hardly scintillating stuff.
To make matters worse, not only did the defence look suspect again but Clement Lenglet’s sending off means 19-year-old centre-back Jean-Clair Todibo may have to start their next league fixture.
WHERE ARE GETAFE GOING?
This had the makings of a famous win for the hosts. They haven’t beaten Barcelona in the league since 2011 and this was as good a time as any to end that wait. They had two or three great chances to score but didn’t take advantage.
Following a sensational fifth place finish last season, you have to ask where Getafe are going this term. The current campaign has been littered with missed opportunities as they’ve drawn four matches already.
Jose Bordalas’s side are contending with Europa League responsibilities this season but fatigue is a real concern and how much will those excursions affect their La Liga campaign?