Evening all! No rest for the wicked. Our penultimate La Liga commentary of the weekend comes from the Spanish capital as Atletico Madrid
welcome Real Zaragoza
. The away side enter the match in the better run of form, but they are up against a team that has won all nine of their matches at home in the league this season.
Atletico were surprisingly beaten by Deportivo last time out, but they booked their spot in the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey with a 0-0 draw against Getafe on Thursday. They currently occupy second position in the table, four points ahead of Real Madrid, but some 11 points behind leaders Barcelona.
It is hard to look past Atletico in this match, but they have taken just seven points from the last 15 on offer in the league. That period did include Real Madrid and Barcelona, however, and they have been strong against the so-called lesser teams in Spain this season. That said, they will be up against a side that has nothing to lose this evening.
Zaragoza currently sit in 13th position in the table with 22 points. Meanwhile, they also booked their spot in the quarter-final stage of the Copa del Rey with a surprise win over Levante on Wednesday. They have also enjoyed recent success on the road with victory over Athletic Bilbao in their final match before the winter break.
ATLETICO: Courtois; Miranda, Juanfran, Luis, Godin; Thiago, Gabi, Turan, Koke; Falcao, Costa
ZARAGOZA: Jimenez; Paredes, Sapunaru, Loovens, Abraham; Zuculini, Pinter, Apono, Montanes; Mari, Postiga
Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch ahead of kickoff. Just about time for pre-match prediction. I just cannot see any possible way how the home side do not win this match. They have all their big-hitters returning with Falcao, Turan and Miranada in the starting side. Meanwhile, Zaragoza recall Helder Postiga to their attack. The away side get the action underway.
Explosive start from the home side with Filipe Luis firing a dangerous cross into the penalty area, but Radamel Falcao
just could not make contact as the danger is cleared for a corner. The resulting set piece is met by Diego Godin, but his powerful effort was straight at Roberto Jimenez.
The home side continue to dominate the opening stages as Diego Costa collects a pass from Gabi before turning and running at goal, but he just slips at the vital moment. It is a mild night in the Spanish capital this evening, but that has done nothing to dampen the start to this match. Atletico will be keen to exploit Real Madrid's dropped points this weekend.
It is simply all one-way traffic from the home side with Koke, Turan and Gabi all involved in the final third. The latter attempts to slip a pass towards Costa, but Paredes comes out to clear the danger. Postiga attempts to collect down the other end, but he is immediately surrounded by two defenders.
Zaragoza just cannot settle with the ball at the moment as the home side continue to put the pressure on in midfield. Again it's good work from Tiago
as the midfielder slips a pass towards Falcao, but the Colombian takes the ball too wide before firing straight at the goalkeeper. But that is their warning.
Another half-chance for the home side as Turan collects possession before floating a dangerous ball into the penalty area, but Costa just cannot gather in his stride as he is forced into a wide position. However, the pressure remains as Atletico continue to pass and probe along the edge of the penalty area.
Half-chance for the away side on the counter as Postiga collects a pass from Pinter before driving into the penalty area, but the striker just cannot turn away from the home side's defence and suddenly the chance is gone. End-to-end football as Falcao as another sighter down the other end, but once more it is cleared. It is all happening here.
Postiga's frustration continues as the experienced striker gives away another free kick. It is difficult to see how much of an impact he can have playing the lone role against Miranda and Luis. The danger moves down the other end as Koke strikes an effort from close range, but Loovens makes a fine block. It is such an incredibly open match at the moment.
Slightly better from the away side in the last couple of moments with Montanes and Apono seeing more of the possession in the final third. However, each time they look up Postiga is the only target in the middle. The striker certainly has experience in these situations, but he has simply not been able to gather for any extended period thus far. The score remains 0-0 with 16 minutes on the clock.
Another half-chance for the home side as Falcao latches onto a long pass from Gabi, but the striker can only fire his effort high and wide of the crossbar. The Colombian has been limited to a few sighters thus far. Nothing too much to get excited about. Meanwhile, it is the away supporters making the noise as things stand.
Again Sociedad demonstrate impressive ability on the ball as they pass and probe in the midfield. However, they have thus far been unable to find that elusive pass in the final third. Paredes attempts to force the issue with a deep cross into the box, but Miranda was always favourite as he cleared the danger.
Nothing much to report in terms of chances in the past few moments. Atletico continue to look the more dangerous side in the final third, but they have been unable to make the breakthrough. Another free kick comes into the penalty area from Gabi, but they work the ball short before Apono takes possession away from the Spaniard.
Atletico just raise the tempo once more as Koke floats a high ball towards Costa, the Brazilian striker turns before striking an effort, but Sapunaru is on hand to make a fine block. The home side have certainly bossed proceedings, but it cannot be said that they have really threatened Jimenez on too many occasions.
The away supporters continue to make their voices known on this mild evening in the Spanish capital. The football has thus far been unable to live up to their hopes, but Zaragoza will not mind as things stand. You just get the feeling that the first goal could open up the floodgates, especially if it comes to Atletico. Little under 20 minutes of the half remaining.
A loose pass from Godin almost puts the home side in trouble as he attempts to find Juanfran in his own penalty area, but Courtois comes out to deal with the danger. The home side advance down the other end before forcing two corners in quick succession, but the first is cleared before Jimenez is felled by Falcao.
Half-chance for the away side to create an opportunity as Apono stands over a free kick outside the box, but he fires his effort straight into the arms of the goalkeeper. That is really poor for a player of the Spaniard's ability. Little over 15 minutes of the half remaining and we are still waiting for the first real chance of the match.
Again Atletico threaten as Turan dances into the penalty box before attempting to find Falcao with a low cross, but once more the final pass is poor and the danger is cleared. However, the pressure remains as the home side force yet another corner.
GOAL! Atletico Madrid 1-0 Real Zaragoza (Tiago)
First blood to Atletico! The home side take the lead from the resulting corner as Tiago rises highest in the penalty area to thump his header into the back of the net. It had been coming. It is a long way back for Zaragoza from this position.
The opening goal has certainly given Atletico encouragement as they continue to attack with pace and numbers. However, Turan is just stopped in his tracks by Paredes, who has been solid in the opening 34 minutes of this match. You just get the feeling that another goal for the home side would put this match beyond Zaragoza.
Zaragoza attempt to threaten down the other end as Montanes slips a low pass behind the Atletico defence, but Postiga just moves too soon with the offside flag being raised. It is difficult to imagine the striker outpacing this back four. Another corner down the other end causes problems, but Miranda heads wide from close range.
PENALTY TO ATLETICO: The home side are awarded a penalty as Sapunaru fells Turan in the penalty area. In truth, the referee could not make any other decision. What on earth is he doing making that challenge in that area?
GOAL! Atletico Madrid 2-0 Real Zaragoza (Falcao)
Falcao does indeed double the home side's lead as he scores his 18th goal of the season from the spot. There was never any doubt. Atletico have won all nine of their league fixtures at home this season and are on course to make it number 10. Little over five minutes of the half remaining.
Another half-chance for the home side as Costa meets a corner from Koke, but his header is just wide of the target. You just get the feeling that the away side need to settle in the final stages of this half or it could get an awful lot worse. Atletico really have their tails up at the moment.
It's good work from Juanfran as the Zaragoza defender drives down the left before whipping a dangerous cross into the penalty area, but it is just too long for Postiga and it drifts out for a throw. Little over two minutes of the half to play and Atletico remain 2-0 ahead. Zaragoza simply have to score the next goal or this one is over.
The fourth official indicates that we will play an additional one minute of football at the end of the half. Not too much to report in the latter stages with Atletico controlling the possession. They will take a 2-0 lead into the interval. A very comfortable half for the capital outfit.
HALF-TIME: Atletico Madrid 2-0 Real Zaragoza
The referee blows his whistle to bring the first period to an end with the home side leading 2-0. The opening goal came after 31 minutes when Thiago headed home from close range and it was two seven minutes later when Falcao converted from the penalty spot.
As it stands Atletico would move seven points clear of third-placed Real Madrid and within eight points of Barcelona at the top of the table. Meanwhile, Zaragoza would remain in 13th position. In truth, they would be happy with a mid-table finish come the end of the season.
In terms of the second period, Atletico have options on the bench if they wish to change things around. They have the likes of Adrian, Mario Suarez and Raul Garcia in reserve which shows the depth of their squad. Meanwhile, the away side would more than likely look to Victor Rodriguez to influence proceedings from the bench.
Looking ahead to the rest of the evening for a moment. Be sure to remain with us following the completion of this match for Malaga against Barcelona. That promises to be some match. Our coverage will get underway at around 7.52pm with kickoff at 8pm. Right, the second period is just moments away.
Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch ahead of the second period. No changes for either side at the interval. You just get the feeling that the next goal - if there indeed is one - will decide the overall result. If Atletico score then it is curtains, but a goal for Zaragoza would give them hope. The home side get the second period underway.
Early change for the away side in the second period with Victor Rodriguez replacing Paredes. That is a positive substitution from Manolo Jimenez. Zaragoza have been good on the road this season, but Atletico have not conceded a single goal in their last seven matches on their home turf. That is a stunning record and shows the size of the task facing the away side this evening.
Smart football from the home side as Falcao slips a low pass behind the Zaragoza defence towards Costa, but it is just too long for the Brazilian and Jimenez is out to collect the danger. The pressure remains as Koke gathers possession, but Loovens makes a fine challenge at the vital moment.
It's really good stuff from Atletico as they continue to pass and probe outside the Zaragoza penalty area, waiting for that one moment to pounce and find the through ball. Costa comes close to doing just that as he turns on the edge of the box, but he loses control at the vital moment and the danger is cleared.
Falcao continues to cause problems to the Zaragoza defence as he hassles Pinter into giving away a corner. The resulting set piece is taken by Gabi, but the delivery is poor as it fails to beat the first man. The second, which comes form Koke, causes all sorts of problems, but Jimenez manages to clear under pressure.
Again the home side threaten as Costa dances into the penalty area before attempting to release a cross into the box, but the danger is cleared for a corner, which Jimenez comes to claim once more. Just about 35 minutes of football remaining and the home side are just about as comfortable as they could ever hope to be.
Penalty claim for the home side as Loovens appears to have handled in the penalty area, but the referee is not interested and shakes his head. Replays have shown that the ball came off the hip of the former Celtic defender, that is a good decision from the officials. It would have been easy to have given it.
Not a great deal to report in terms of chances in the past few minutes with Atletico controlling the tempo of the match. Meanwhile, the away side make another change as Edu Oriol replaces Zuculini. Zaragoza have simply not turned up in this second period thus far, but there is still time.
Decent spell for Zaragoza in terms of possession as they start to dictate the tempo in the middle of the midfield. However, the fact that I have not mentioned Postiga's name in the second period tells you everything that you need to know. Costa strikes a powerful effort down the other end, but Jimenez palms to safety.
Half-chance for the away side as Apono strikes a wonderful effort from outside the box, but Courtois is comfortable in dealing with the danger. The Belgian attempts to release Falcao on the counter attack, but the Colombian had just moved into an offside position. Little over 25 minutes of football remaining.
Meanwhile, the home side make their first change of the match as Tiago is replaced by Mario Suarez. Not a bad replacement. What about Adrian? The Spaniard would walk into most teams in La Liga, but he simply cannot get a look-in this season with Costa very much Falcao's favoured partner.
Not a great deal happening truth be told as we enter the final 20 minutes of this match. The game as a contest has been over since Atletico scored their second of the evening. Better sides than Zaragoza have been beaten on this ground this season. But the home side will be keen to add to their tally in the time remaining.
Another half-chance for the home side as Costa finds Turan in the penalty area, but the Turkish midfielder slices his effort horribly wide of the post. Zaragoza attempt to advance immediately down the other end with Victor Rodriguez, but he cannot gather under pressure.
Another half-chance for the away side as Jose Mari strikes an effort from the edge of the box, but Godin comes out to make the block. It is difficult to see any way that Zaragoza can get back into this match. Little over 20 minutes of football remaining.
There is only one side that has scored three goals against Atletico on this ground this season - Rayo Vallecano in a quite incredible match. That is what Zaragoza must accomplish in order to secure three points. Another half-chance for the home side as Falcao drives into the box, but he fires wide of the target.
Meanwhile, Atletico make their second change of the match as Costa - who is a real favourite with the supporters - is replaced by Cristian Rodriguez. It would not be a surprise to see Falcao rested for Adrian in the latter stages of the match. Relatively little has happened in this second period truth be told.
The home side go in search of their third once more as Juanfran fires a dangerous cross into the penalty area, but Loovens just beats Falcao to the ball in order to thump clear. Postiga attempts to collect down the other end, but once more he is surrounded by two defenders and he cannot keep hold of the ball.
The away side make their third and final change as Montanes is replaced by Javi Alamo. In fairness to Zaragoza these type of matches will not define their season. They will be looking to secure a comfortable mid-table finish and they will not really have expected to take anything from this match this evening.
Neither team has really taken control of the possession in the past few minutes with both guilty of sloppiness in the opposing half. Apono attempts to force the issue for the away side as he slides a through pass towards Postiga, but the striker simply does not have the legs and Courtois is out to collect.
CHANCE! OH MY WORD. What an incredible moment. It is almost a horrible own goal from Loovens as the defender decides to head over his onrushing goalkeeper, but luckily for the Dutchman the ball just rolls wide of the post. Meanwhile, the home side make another change as Turan is replaced by Raul Garica.
Another half-chance comes and goes for the home side as Falcao attempts to find Rodriguez, but the Argentine cannot sort out his feet in time and the danger is cleared. Just about two minutes of normal time remaining and Zaragoza continue to offer very little.
Koke attempts to get in on the act as he strikes an effort from outside the box, but it was always moving wide of the target. Meanwhile, the fourth official indicates that we will play an additional three minutes of added time and we are into the first of those.
Still nothing much to get excited about in stoppage time with Falcao carrying the ball 40 yards before winning a free kick for his side. It has been a very professional performance from the capital outfit this evening. Their impressive home record will indeed continue. Little over 30 seconds of football remaining.
FULL-TIME: Atletico Madrid 2-0 Real Zaragoza
So there we have it. Atletico move seven points ahead of Real Madrid with a 2-0 victory over Real Zaragoza. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for the action and remain with us for Malaga against Barcelona. Until then!