Atletico Madrid’s clash at home to eighth-placed Eibar on Saturday looked set to be an easy victory for the hosts on paper, but it was a lacklustre opening half for Los Colchoneros.
Conceding a goal in the first minute after the break was not what manager Diego Simeone would have wanted from his side, who are battling for their second La Liga title in three years.
Although they equalised through a powerful header from Jose Gimenez, Atleti still lacked an attacking impetus until they brought on Oliver Torres.
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Changed the game
The 21-year-old midfielder has had limited game-time this season, making just eight starts in the league, despite impressing on loan at Porto last year.
Yet, it was clear on Saturday that when he does see some action, he uses his time wisely to showcase to the manager and fans just why there has been so much hype surrounding him since his days in the Atletico academy.
At the weekend, he replaced the defensive-minded Thomas Partey on the hour mark and completely changed the dimension with which the hosts played.
Versatile and talented
Despite his young age, Torres has a mature head on his shoulders, capable of setting the tempo of the match and using it to work to his and Atleti’s favour.
The Spanish youth international was as adept at playing as a deep-lying midfielder, spraying passes from wing to wing and through the middle, as he is at driving the ball forward, weaving his way through a host of defenders.
At one stage, Torres was stuck between the byline on the left flank and three Eibar players, only to leave them all dazed as he drove towards the visitors’ goal and searching for a team-mate to set-up.
Chances to impress
The game finished 3-1 in Atletico’s favour and although the youngster’s performance was not the story of the day, with his compatriot Fernando Torres grabbing his 100th goal for Atletico, it was the first time that he has dazzled when called upon.
Following his hugely successful stint at Portuguese side Porto last season, many expected him to become a regular for his boyhood club but has struggled to get past the likes of Koke and Gabi in the pecking order.
Yet, putting in performances such as his 30-minute cameo against Eibar will have certainly given Simeone something to think about and even the Spanish national team selectors.
Nearing Spanish call-up?
Spain have lost some world-class players in recent years, most notably Xavi Hernandez, who retired after the 2014 World Cup, while Andres Iniesta and Santi Cazorla are starting to see their powers wane.
La Roja is well-known for its constant stream of brilliant midfielders, with Bayern Munich’s Thiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas of Chelsea and Real Madrid’s Isco among those all battling for limited positions.
Yet, with the La Liga and Champions League trophies still up for grabs for Atletico Madrid this season, Torres will have plenty of opportunities to impress the selectors and be an outsider to make the squad for the Euro 2016 tournament in France.
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