Madrid: Defenders Diego Godin and Filipe Luis scored as Atletico Madrid bounced back from their midweek thrashing by Borussia Dortmund with a 2-0 victory over Real Sociedad to move top of La Liga on Saturday ahead of the season’s first Clasico.
Despite a stuttering start to the campaign, the poor form of both Barcelona and Real Madrid have allowed Diego Simeone’s side to drag themselves to the summit after a seven-game unbeaten run in the league. It’s the first battle between the two Spanish heavyweights since 2007 without either Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
Valencia were held to their 10th draw of the season and fifth in a row with a goalless stalemate at Athletic Bilbao.
Wednesday’s 4-0 thumping at Signal Iduna Park was the heaviest defeat of Simeone’s seven years in charge, but Atletico put in a commanding display at the Wanda Metropolitano.
The 2014 Spanish champions lead second-placed Barcelona by one point, with Real four further adrift, with the two giants to face off at the Camp Nou on Sunday.
After a frustrating first 44 minutes which saw Ruben Pardo twice go close for the visitors, Godin struck on the stroke of half-time, latching onto a loose ball to sweep home his first league goal since March 2017.
Atletico dominated after the restart and left-back Luis put the game to bed on the hour mark with a brilliant curling effort after cutting inside onto his less-favoured right foot.
Elsewhere, Valencia were held to their 10th draw of the season and fifth in a row with a goalless stalemate at Athletic Bilbao.
Marcelino’s men, who finished fourth last term to qualify for the Champions League, are now just three points above the relegation zone despite having only lost one of their 10 top-flight matches so far.
Spain striker Iago Aspas scored a hat-trick as Celta Vigo thrashed Eibar 4-0 to move into the top half of the table, while Levante clinched a fourth successive league victory by beating Leganes 2-0.
Earlier on Saturday, Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui evaded questions regarding his future at the club after the European champions’ woeful recent spell.
An unconvincing 2-1 midweek win over Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League did little to lift the pressure on his shoulders after a run of five games without a win, and he is widely believed to be on borrowed time just four months after taking over from Zinedine Zidane.
“I hope to still be breathing. I don’t think I am going to die,” the 52-year-old Lopetegui replied at a press conference to a question about what the future holds for him after Sunday’s match at the Camp Nou.
“Everyone is 100 per cent full of energy and my energies are 100 per cent focused on helping the team.”