Atletico Madrid's hopes of a second straight La Liga crown were hanging by a thread on Sunday after a 2-0 loss...
Atletico Madrid’s hopes of a second straight La Liga crown were hanging by a thread on Sunday after a 2-0 loss at Celta Vigo that defender Diego Godin blamed on the absence of midfielders Koke, Arda Turan and Raul Garcia.
Atletico were a shadow of the side that beat leaders Real Madrid 4-0 at the Calderon last weekend and barely threatened the Celta goal in a weak performance that left them seven points behind Real and six adrift of second-placed Barcelona.
The excellent Nolito fired Celta ahead with a penalty in the 59th minute at their Balaidos stadium in Galicia and Fabian Orellana made it 2-0 in the 71st to cap a deserved victory.
For Atletico, strikers Mario Mandzukic and Fernando Torres toiled fruitlessly, while Antoine Griezmann had their best chance shortly before Orellana’s goal but his low strike was tipped onto a post by Celta goalkeeper Sergio Alvarez.
It was the first time Atletico had failed to score away in La Liga since a 0-0 draw at city neighbours Rayo Vallecano at the end of August and they sorely missed the injured Koke and suspended Arda and Garcia.
“We’re a large group and we’re all prepared to play,” Godin said in an interview with Spanish broadcaster Canal Plus.
“But we are not going to lie either, they (Koke, Arda and Garcia) are important players,” added the Uruguay international.
“It always hurts to lose, we never want to and we are coming away feeling sad.”
Atletico have a home game against Almeria in La Liga next weekend before they travel to Bayer Leverkusen for their Champions League last-16, first leg tie.
Koke, who has a hamstring problem, is unlikely to be fit to face Leverkusen but Arda and Garcia should be back as Atletico seek to repeat last season’s run to the final.
However, Sunday’s reverse exposed the limitations of coach Diego Simeone’s squad and will give the former Argentina captain a good deal of food for thought for the challenges ahead.