Atletico Madrid's players celebrate after Argentinian forward Angel Correa (C) scored his team's third goal I AFP
Barcelona: Struggling like never before under Diego Simeone, Atlético Madrid got the convincing win it needed before facing Manchester United and old nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo.
The class of João Félix and Luis Suárez — combined with some team defending finally living up to Simeone's standard — gave Atlético reasons to feel better about its upcoming Champions League clash after a 3-0 win at Osasuna on Saturday in the Spanish league.
Karim Benzema, Marco Asensio and Vinícius Júnior all scored in the second half to give league leader Real Madrid a 3-0 win over Alavés. Second-place Sevilla trails Madrid by seven points before it visits Espanyol on Sunday.
Atlético’s first away win in the league since late November came after an embarrassing home loss to bottom side Levante. The win in Pamplona saw Atlético move ahead of Barcelona into fourth place.
Félix smashed in a poor clearance by Osasuna goalkeeper Sergio Herrera for the third-minute opener. Felix's pass in the 59th launched a counterattack that Suárez capped with an exquisite left-foot strike — from 40 yards out — over the head of Herrera, who was caught off his line.
Ángel Correa rounded off the win in the 88th with his team-high 12th goal of the season.
“We are happy with the win today after coming from such a bad game, but we knew how to turn the situation around,” the 22-year-old Félix said after his 100th appearance in all competitions for Atlético. “This gives us confidence after scoring three and not conceding once.”
United is the next test for Atlético when it visits Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Wednesday in the Champions League round-of-16 first leg. Ronaldo will return to face a team whose fans learned to fear and loath the striker who helped Real Madrid beat Atlético in two Champions League finals, as well as in domestic league matches, in his nine seasons in the Spanish capital.
The win comes amid Atlético's worst run of results since Simeone took over the club and turned it into a winner a decade ago. Beyond the goals against Osasuna, Atlético finally showed the same defense that Simeone has made the foundation of its success by keeping its first clean sheet in eight games.
“We had been struggling in these types of games for quite some time,” Simeone said. “Today we restored that defensive security and from there the team showed it has talent and can produce goals.” AFP