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Monday January 21 2013
Atletico’s perfect 10

Atletico Madrid once again added to their statistics, just as Barcelona saw a significant one end. Kieran Canning rounds up Week 20.

Atletico Madrid once again added to their statistics, just as Barcelona saw a significant one end. Kieran Canning rounds up Week 20.

It's a sign of the times at Atletico de Madrid that following their 2-0 victory over Betis in the Copa del Rey last week, the analyst one Spanish radio station chose to have on was a statistician.

Another 2-0 success against Levante on Sunday only emphasised the numbers he presented. Atleti have now won 18 straight in all competitions at the Vicente Calderon stretching back to the end of last season and they haven't even conceded in their last 10 on home soil.

Indeed, since Diego Simeone took charge just over a year ago, his record at home reads: Played 31, Won 27, Drawn two, Lost two. Those two defeats came at the hands of Real Madrid and Barcelona in full flow and were inflicted by moments of genius from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The capital side’s three successive 2-0 wins over the past week have been the classic prototype of Los Rojiblancos under Simeone. At times reliant on the brilliance of Radamel Falcao and Thibaut Courtois in both boxes, but generally just an excellently drilled team unit that knows how to control the game once they go in front.

The Argentine Coach has blended the undoubted natural talent that has always been present in Atleti sides over the past decade with a work-rate, commitment and most importantly a winning mentality that was so scarcely apparent before his arrival.

Moreover, as Sunday's triumph showed, more than most they now have a squad capable of competing on three fronts. Both their goals arrived via players that had started the Betis game in the bench, but perhaps the most pleasing sign of all for Colchoneros was the sight of 18-year-old Javier Manquillo, making his League debut in place of the injured Juanfran, storming forward to set up the opening goal for Adrian Lopez.

If the financial problems at the Calderon are to truly be overcome in the next few years, their highly touted youth set-up will have to continue producing the likes of Manquillo and the even more hyped Oliver Torres to compensate for the lack of big-name signings.

And they could get a glimpse at their future sooner than expected. The only black spot on their weekend was a muscular injury that forced Falcao off and will keep him sidelined for up to three weeks. With the Colombian almost certain to leave come the summer, how they do without him could be an indicator as to whether Simeone's magic can continue to function beyond this current campaign.

Atleti's win was all the more significant as it cut the gap on Barcelona at the top to eight points after they lost for the first time in the League this season 3-2 at Real Sociedad. The defeat was all the more remarkable given the Catalans had led 2-0 inside the opening 20 minutes.

However, after Gonzalo Castro had pulled a goal back before the break and  Gerard Pique had seen a second yellow 10 minutes after, La Real took advantage as another strike from Castro and a stoppage time winner from Imanol Agirretxe sealed another famous comeback against Barca after also coming from behind to beat them 2-1 and draw 2-2 in the last two seasons at Anoeta.

Real Madrid also made a statement that they could be ready to click back into gear as Jose Mourinho didn't rest or drop Iker Casillas, Xabi Alonso or Cristiano Ronaldo as had been rumoured and was rewarded with his side's best and most destructive performance of the season as they scored five times int the opening 45 minutes to beat a dejected Valencia 5-0. The lesson for Los Che? Don't give Madrid the counter-attack. The problem? They have to play them again and try and overturn a 2-0 deficit in the Cup on Wednesday night.

Elsewhere, it was a good week for Osasuna who won for the first time in eight games to move off the bottom and Granada who moved out of the bottom three with a 2-0 win over Rayo. The picture isn't so rosy for Athletic Bilbao though who are now just three points off the drop zone ahead of tonight's difficult trip to Betis.

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