With neighbours Real Madrid given a free weekend due to Sevilla playing in the Copa Del Rey final, Atletico Madrid had the opportunity to strengthen their grip on second place in Sunday evening’s clash with Real Betis.
Diego Simeone’s men failed to capitalise on the opportunity however and played a drab 0-0 draw with a Real Betis side inching closer to Europa League qualification at the Wanda Metropolitano.
With Diego Costa confirmed to miss the Europa League semi-final first leg against Arsenal on Thursday, Simeone decided to relegate Antoine Griezmann to the bench, with Fernando Torres grabbing a rare start for the side. Diego Godin and Koke were also substitutions for the clash with Lucas Hernandez returning to the squad following his suspension.
Quique Setién made three changes to the side that defeated Las Palmas on Thursday, with Javi Garcia, Cristian Tello and Lorenzo Garcia taking to the field in place of Andres Guardado, Joaquin and Sergio Leon.
It was the visitors who looked the most likely to grab the opener in the first half, constantly putting pressure on the Atleti defence. Ryad Boudebouz had a couple of chances but failed to beat Jan Oblak. Fernando Torres came close to scoring in the 25th minute for the hosts; however his shot was cleared off the line.
With Betis continuing to press forward, Simeone decided to introduce Koke, Griezmann and Vrsaljko to kill the game off. Cristian Tello nearly broke the deadlock in the 70th minute; however his shot smashed off the outside post. Los Colchoneros chose not to sit back in the final stages of the match and it looked like they finally made a breakthrough; but Saul’s shot hit the top of the crossbar.
Atleti are now four points ahead of Real Madrid and following their trip to London on Thursday face an Alaves side that comfortably defeated Las Palmas 4-0 in Sunday’s earlier kick off.
Real Betis continue to sit in fifth place, five points ahead of Villarreal. They welcome bottom side Malaga to the Estadio Benito Villamarín in the final fixture of match day 35.
Atletico Madrid: Oblak; Juanfran (Vrsaljko, 65), Savic, Giminez, Lucas; Vitolo (Koke, 63), Thomas, Gabi, Saul; Torres, Correa (Griezmann, 63)
Real Betis: Giminez (Lopez, 39); Mandi, Bartra, Amat; Barragan, Ruiz Pena, Javi Garcia, Firpo Adames; Boudebouz (Joaquin, 65), Tello (Campbell, 83), L. Garcia