Afternoon all! Our La Liga coverage for the afternoon begins at the Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero as Elche
welcome Atletico Madrid
. Elche will certainly be content with their solid start to the season, but they have won just one of their last five games in the league – a 2-1 victory over Valencia in this stadium last time out. Right, the team news has reached us.
ELCHE: Herrera; Damian, Lomban, Botia, Albacar; Sanchez, Perez; Gil, Fidel, Coro; Boakye
ATLETICO MADRID: Courtois; Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Filipe; Tiago, Gabi, Koke; Turan, Costa, Villa
So there we have it. No real surprises in the Elche XI this afternoon with Richmond Boakye once more leading the line. There are also starts for Carles Gil and Ruben Perez. Atletico, meanwhile, leave Adrian Lopez and Raul Garcia on the bench, with Arda Turan and Tiago both starting in midfield. Diego Costa
and David Villa also start for the capital outfit.
Atletico show no sign of slowing down in their pursuit of the title. They recovered from a 1-1 draw against Villarreal before the international break by putting seven past Getafe last time out. As mentioned, another three points this afternoon would move them level on 40 points with leaders Barcelona at the top of the table.
It is difficult to be too critical of Elche’s recent form, with the newly-promoted outfit enjoying a strong start to the season. They have collected 17 points from their 14 matches thus far, with that run of form leaving them in 10th spot in the table. What’s more, a big win this afternoon could move them as high as sixth, which demonstrates the closeness of the table.
Much of Elche’s success this season has been built on a strong defensive unit. They have conceded 18 times in their 14 matches, which is just one less than Real Madrid. However, they have managed just two clean sheets in the process. Down the other end, they have managed just 15 goals, with their top scorer Richmond Boakye netting three times.
That is in contrast to Atletico, who have found the back of the net on 38 occasions in the league. As mentioned, Diego Costa has struck 14 times in La Liga thus far and David Villa eight – the same number as Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. What’s more, Diego Simeone’s side have conceded just nine times, which is the second-best record in the league.
Despite Atletico’s stunning form, many still expect the capital outfit to finish third behind Barcelona and Real Madrid. The next few weeks leading up to Christmas will determine whether Atletico have the capabilities to sustain a title challenge. Investment in January would allow them to rotate their squad in all competitions.
It had been questioned whether Atletico could balance Spanish football with the Champions League. Well, that has been answered. The La Liga side have breezed into the knockout stages of the competition and are among the dark horses for the crown. Keeping Diego Costa fit and firing will be key to their chances of success.
PREDICTION: Atletico enter the match off the back of a trip to Russia in the week, but were able to rest a number of their key players. Elche line up with an attacking XI this afternoon, but I am finding it difficult to make a case for the home side. My score prediction is 3-1 Atletico.
Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch. The pre-match handshakes have been undertaken and the flags have been exchanged. You just get the feeling that Elche need to score first if they are to take something from the match. Right, the away side get the action underway on this mild afternoon in Spain.
As expected, there is a wonderful atmosphere inside the stadium this afternoon. Nervy moment for Elche inside two minutes as Sanchez has his pocket picked by Costa outside the box, but the danger is cleared at the vital moment. Atletico are down the right with Koke moments later, but Suarez is across to clear.
The referee has been more involved than he would have liked in the last couple of moments as the challenges continue to arrive from both sides. Not too much to report in terms of chances, but there is plenty happening in the middle of the pitch. It is imperative that Elche keep the home supporters on side in the early stages of proceedings.
Slightly untidy period of the match in the last couple of minutes with both sides struggling to find that elusive pass in the final third. Atletico are in control of the possession, but Villa and Costa have not been involved thus far. Luis is down the left moments later, but his cross is headed clear by Lomban.
First real sign of Costa as the striker gathers possession before driving past three defenders, but his cross is straight into the arms of Manu Herrera. Elche are down the other end with Boakye moments later, but the on-loan Juventus striker just loses his footing at the vital moment, allowing Miranda across to clear.
Atletico have been unable to find their passing rhythm thus far with Elche closing the space just outside their box. A free kick arrives for Atletico moments later, with Miranda gaining a corner under a challenge from Sanchez. However, the resulting set piece is headed clear. It has been a non-eventful opening 11 minutes of football at the Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero.
CHANCE! The first real chance of the match arrives after 13 minutes as Miranda meets a corner from Koke, but his header is straight at Herrera. Costa was in close proximity and any touch would have diverted it into the back of the net. Let's hope that is a sign of things to come this afternoon.
Handbags between Luis and Lomban as the two clash down the left, but the referee is on hand to calm proceedings. Atletico enjoy a period of possession moments later, but the move breaks down when Tiago loses out - fouling Perez in the process. Both managers are parading the touchline as the intensity continues to rise on this mild afternoon in Spain.
Half-chance for Villa as the Spaniard latches onto a loose ball inside the Elche box, but the referee awards a free kick for handball, much to the frustration of the Atletico forward. Elche are down the other end with Gil moments later, but the Spaniard loses out when he attempts to force one towards Boakye.
Good pressure from Elche in the last couple of moments as they force the issue with two corners in quick succession, but Miranda and Godin take it in turns to clear the danger. A half-chance arrives for Coro moments later, but his effort just flashes wide of the post, with Courtois scrambling.
Unfortunately the referee has taken centre stage in the last couple of moments as the challenges continue to arrive. Suarez has been involved for Elche, with the defender clashing with Luis and Costa in quick succession. Sanchez attempts to thread a pass towards Coro moments later, but Godin was always in control of the situation.
Luis searches out Costa with a deep cross into the Elche box, but once more Suarez is in control of the situation. Costa and Villa have had little to feed off thus far. However, the same can be said for Boakye and Gil. The former has a snap-shot moments later, but his effort was always moving high and wide.
Half-chance for Koke as the Atletico midfielder meets a cross from Luis, but he floats his header high of the crossbar. Elche are just struggling to keep the ball at the moment with Atletico flooding the midfield. However, they are more than in this match with 27 minutes on the clock. Still goalless.
Atletico have just started to turn the screw in the last five minutes or so with a number of deep crosses into the Elche box. However, Botia and Suarez have been impressive in the air thus far. Koke finds space inside the Elche box moments later, but he cannot keep it on the pitch. Little over 15 minutes of the first period remaining.
Not too much to report in terms of chances in the last couple of moments with both sides guilty of losing possession too easily in the final third. In truth, neither side has done enough to deserve to be leading at this stage of proceedings. Elche will be the happier team with 32 minutes on the clock, but there is still plenty of time for things to change in the first half.
CHANCE! It's wonderful work from Turan as the Turkish international beats two players before curling one towards the top corner, but it just moved high of the crossbar. The better chances have fallen the way of the away side, but Elche have more than held their own in the opening 34 minutes.
CHANCE! The chances continue to arrive for the away side as Costa collects a loose ball inside the box, but Suarez is on hand to make a fine block. Some suspect goalkeeping from Herrera, who had come and dropped a cross from Koke. Little under 10 minutes of the first period remaining.
Nervy moment for Juanfran as the Atletico right-back appears to fell Coro inside the box, but the referee points for a corner. The resulting set piece is delivered towards Botia, but Godin rises to clear the danger. You just get the feeling that the first goal - if there indeed is one - could be decisive this afternoon.
Elche continue to threaten in wide areas with Coro and Gil both enjoying possession, but neither has been able to find that elusive pass in the final third. We have seen little from Costa and Villa for Atletico, meanwhile, with the home side keeping their shape as we enter the final five minutes of the first period.
Half-chance for Atletico as Tiago finds some space inside the Elche box, but his low effort is blocked by Botia at the final moment. I shouldn't think that there will be too much added time at the end of the first period. In truth, neither side has done enough to deserve to be leading at this stage of proceedings.
HALF-TIME: Elche 0-0 Atletico Madrid
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to an end with the two sides level at 0-0. Atletico have had the better of the chances, but Elche have also had their moments in an open 45 minutes of football. It is the type of match that could be decided by the single goal.
STATISTICS: Atletico have just about shaded the possession with 53%, while they have had seven attempts to Elche's four. That said, a goalless draw at this stage of proceedings is a fair reflection. There has been three yellow cards, meanwhile, with the referee forced to deal with a number of late challenges.
BENCH WATCH: The home side have a number of attacking options on their bench in the shape of Aaron Niguez, Tono and Mantecon. Meanwhile, Atletico have the likes of Adrian, Garcia and Rodriguez in reserve. Both managers will already be thinking about changes at this stage of proceedings.
Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch for the second period. There have been no changes from either manager, which is not much of a surprise. The first goal - if there indeed is one - could be decisive this afternoon. Elche get the second 45 minutes of action underway.
If Atletico are to keep pace with Barcelona, this is the type of match that they need to win. They struggled to find their best form in their last away league match at Villarreal and that has proved to be the case thus far in this one. Bright start from Atletico in the second period as Koke finds some space outside the box, but his low pass is collected by Herrera.
Half-chance for Atletico as Costa is felled outside the box by Lomban. The resulting set piece is taken by Koke, but Botia is on hand to clear under pressure from Villa. Luis tries his luck from outside the box moments later, but his effort was always moving wide of the post. Not too much from Elche in the second period.
Half-chance for Elche this time as Coro delivers a deep cross into the Atletico box, but Fidel cannot make contact at the vital moment, before Juanfran lets it move behind for a goal kick. The noise level is deafening inside the stadium as the intensity continues to rise. However, we are still waiting for the first goal of this La Liga encounter.
It would not be a surprise if both managers were thinking about changes - even at this early stage. Atletico are the better team with 55 minutes on the clock, but Elche have not been too worried in the second period. It is the type of match that could be decided by the single goal. I would be surprised if it did end goalless.
Elche have just raised the tempo in the last couple of moments with Sanchez and Perez more involved in the final third, but they are finding it difficult to really threaten the Atletico defence. Still no movement on either bench, which is a surprise with little more than 30 minutes of football remaining. One goal would surely win it.
CHANCE! The best chance of the second period falls to Atletico as Costa delivers a dangerous cross towards Villa, but Lomban is on hand to clear at the vital moment. The resulting corner causes Herrera some problems, but the Elche stopper manages to palm Koke's delivery over the crossbar.
Elche continue to pass and probe outside the Atletico box as the atmosphere continues to rise inside the stadium, but Atletico are comfortable in dealing with the danger. The away side break down the other end with Turan moments later, but the attack comes to an end when the Turk attempts to force one towards Costa, who never had the legs to make up the ground.
Half-chance for Boakye this time as the Elche forward turns and strikes one inside the box, but his effort was always moving wide of the post. Atletico make their first change of the match moments later as Garcia replaces Villa, who has struggled to influence proceedings in the opening 64 minutes of football at the Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero.
GOAL! Elche 0-1 Atletico Madrid (Koke)
Atletico take the lead after 63 minutes, but it is a real horror from Herrera. The Elche goalkeeper fails to hold a strike from Garcia, allowing Koke to pick up the pieces and slot home from close range. Nightmare for the home side's stopper.
Elche respond with a change as Niguez replaces Fidel, who has struggled to make his mark in the second period. The home side force a free kick in a deep position moments later, with Luis gaining a yellow for fouling Suarez. However, the resulting set piece comes to nothing as Courtois comes through the crowd to claim.
Good pressure from Elche as they continue to force the issue with two corners in quick succession, but Godin and Miranda have both been sensational in defence. Atletico have the ball in the back of the net moments later through Turan, but the Turkish international is penalised for handball. Strange decision for me.
Atletico make their second change of the match as in-form forward Adrian Lopez replaces Turan. Moments before, Courtois had a nervy moment as he dropped a cross from Perez, but the referee had blown for a free kick. Little under 20 minutes of football remaining in this La Liga contest. Can Elche rescue a point?
Just a reminder that three points for Atletico would move them level on points with Barcelona at the top of the table. The current leaders travel to Athletic Bilbao tomorrow evening. Elche make their second change moments later as Herrera replaces Boakye. The pressure is building with 73 minutes on the clock.
You just get the feeling that there is another goal in this match, but Atletico are not resting on their laurels as they continue to force the issue in the final third. Herrera has provided a threat for Elche, but Courtois has not really been tested in the second period.
GOAL! Elche 0-2 Atletico Madrid (Costa)
Game over. Atletico score their second of the match after 74 minutes as Costa converts after a wonderful pass from Adrian. That has sucked the life out of the home side at this stage of proceedings.
Elche respond by making their third and final change as Javi Marquez replaces Sanchez with little under 15 minutes of football remaining. Atletico have been far from their best in this match, but they look to be leaving with all three points. That is the mark of champions.
The home supporters arrived this afternoon full of hope, but their side has been unable to find a way through this stern Atletico defence. Good possession from Elche since they conceded the second, but still Courtois is yet to be really tested. It would take some turnaround for Atletico to throw this one away.
Not too much to report in terms of chances in the last couple of moments as Atletico continue to close the space in the final third. Elche have had plenty of the ball throughout the 82 minutes, but have been unable to really threaten. However, how they fare this season will not depend on their results against teams such as Atletico.
Slightly untidy period of the match in the last minute or two as Koke picks up a booking for a poor challenge on Perez. It has been that type of match - with the referee forced to issue a number of cards following a series of late challenges. Little over five minutes of normal time remaining in this La Liga contest.
Half-chance for Elche as Coro latches onto a loose ball inside the box, but Miranda just does enough to clear the danger at the vital moment. The resulting corner is whipped into the Atletico box, but once more Godin is on hand to clear the danger. It is no surprise that they have such an incredible defensive record with Godin and Miranda at the heart of their defence.
In fairness to Elche, they continue to force the issue with a series of long balls into the Atletico box, but it just will not fall for a white and green shirt. Atletico break down the other end with Koke moments later, but his sweeping pass is collected by Herrera. Little over one minute of normal time remaining.
The fourth official indicates that we will play an additional three minutes and we are indeed into the second of those. In truth, not too much has happened since Atletico put the game to bed with their second. The capital outfit are moving level on points with Barcelona at the top of the table.
FULL-TIME: Elche 0-2 Atletico Madrid
So there we have it. Goals from Koke and Costa hand Atletico all three points against Elche. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for the action and be sure to join us again from 6.30pm for Real Madrid against Real Valladolid. Until then!