With the Real Madrid game looming, Diego Simeone had the challenge of keeping his best Atlético Madrid players available for next week’s Madrid derby.
Of particular concern going into the weekend’s clash with Athletic Club were Nahuel Molina and Reinildo Mandava, who not only had the difficult challenge of marking the dangerous wing duo of Nico Williams and Iker Muniain, but they had to do so without being booked to avoid suspensions for the derby.
In a game that eventually ended in a 1-0 win favouring the home side at the Metropolitano, the two full-backs put in strong performances.
While Antoine Griezmann was the star of the show in scoring a superb winning goal, Molina played a crucial role in attack, penetrating Athletic’s back line with constant, tireless runs.
In contrast, Reinildo was imperial at the back. He constantly cut out attacks with intelligent interceptions and strong tackles, and protected Jan Oblak’s goal without using the excessive force which would’ve earned him a booking.
Atlético Madrid now sit 10 points behind their city rivals and will be hungry to close the gap.
Athletic Club on the other hand, missed out on their chance to take seventh spot from Rayo Vallecano and cement themselves in European spots.
Nicolás Antúnez de Mayolo | GSFN