Pamplona (Spain) (AFP) – Luis Suarez’s phenomenal long-range strike lifted the mood at Atletico Madrid on Saturday as they beat Osasuna 3-0 ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League game against Manchester United.
Joao Felix smashed Atletico into the lead in Pamplona before driving a pass downfield for Suarez to chase. The Uruguayan shot before Osasuna goalkeeper Sergio Herrera could scramble back.
Angel Correa tucked in a late third to round off a convincing win for Atletico, who climb back into La Liga’s top four, ahead of Barcelona’s game on Sunday. It also allows them to head into the last-16 European tie against United with a spring in their step.
The only blot on a satisfying afternoon for coach Diego Simeone was an injury to central defender Jose Gimenez, who had to be substituted at half-time and could miss the mid-week game.
Barcelona are only three points behind Atletico with two games in hand.
Villarreal also look increasingly like serious contenders for Champions League qualification after they secured an impressive 4-1 win away at Granada, with Arnaut Danjuma scoring a hat-trick.
Unai Emery’s side, who host Juventus at La Ceramica on Tuesday, are three points adrift of Atletico, and have played the same number of games.
Atletico’s top-four challenge appeared to be imploding when they lost 1-0 at home to bottom club Levante in midweek, their fourth defeat in six matches.
While one encouraging performance against Osasuna will not on its own save their season, a first clean sheet in eight matches, not to mention goals for Suarez and Felix, comes as a welcome boost to morale.
If Atletico’s nerves were fragile after the Levante loss, Felix quickly eased them by banging home at the back post in the third minute after Herrera had failed to punch away a corner.
Osasuna were the better team after half-time but their momentum was checked by Suarez, who raced onto Felix’s long ball and struck first time with his left foot, the ball floating perfectly into the net with Herrera stranded.
Correa, on as a substitute, sidefooted in a third when sent clear in the 89th minute as Atletico strolled to a timely victory.
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