Atlético Madrid have still lost just one LaLiga (LL) game since the World Cup break after emphatically dispatching Valencia 3-0 to strengthen their position within the top four.
Diego Simeone might have arrived wanting to set a personal record straight with newly-appointed Valencia coach Rubén Baraja, who only lost to the fiery Argentine once in their playing days.
These are different times though, and the relegation-threatened visitors’ 11-game H2H winless LL away run saw reports calling their trip Atléti as ‘a visit to the dentists’, so Simeone may have been unsurprised that his side were on top, but pulling teeth in a hard-fought opening.
The hosts’ sheer dominance on proceedings meant a first-half goal was likely but not before visiting goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili pulled off a quite stunning stop.
Memphis Depay and Marcos Llorente combined splendidly, and what might have been one of the team goals of the season was thwarted by the Georgian’s strong hands.
Atléti were waltzing however, and the opener that soon followed was of similar ilk, as Antoine Griezmann sliced through Valencia’s backline before sticking the knife in with a rolled finish – against no other LL side has he scored more goals.
Rodrigo De Paul’s threaded through ball found Yannick Carrasco who made no mistake with his finish to all but wrap up a club-record 17th consecutive unbeaten top-flight game against Los Che.
Valencia, who are holders of LL’s longest active losing streak in away games, ultimately limped over the line with their creativity strangled by a flurry of Red-and-White on a pristine Metropolitano pitch.