Joao Felix and Luis Suarez scored twice each as Atletico ran out winners despite receiving a scare from bottom-side Alaves.
The young Portuguese star opened the scoring with a fine header from Simo Vrsaljko’s right-wing centre and this looked to be enough for much of the game.
With the Rojiblanco a little lacklustre, perhaps with a Champions League tie at Manchester City on their minds, they were punished when Gonzalo Escalante rose to head an equaliser just after the hour mark.
A dubious penalty, won by Matheus Cunha, helped their cause as Suarez – not long after coming off the bench – slotted home and then two more goals from their star pair put gloss on the scoreline.
Felix followed up a fine cross for Cunha as, after Fernando Pacheco’s save he slammed home the rebound and then Suarez in typical style when played through on goal slotted past the keeper with the outside of his boot.
The win puts keeps Atleti level with second-place Sevilla and seven points clear of fifth-place Real Betis. Alaves remain bottom of the table, five points from safety.
Ingredients are there to hurt City – They were far, far from their best tonight, but Atleti did show how their have the potential to cause Manchester City problems on Tuesday. Saying they must improve on this display would be trite, as their focus will be completely different at the Etihad. In small glimpses we were shown their quality though. In Joao Felix and Luis Suarez they have two in-form and confident forwards capable of giving each Manchester City defender fits.
Their defensive resolve, which held for much of the game as the attacking two-third of the line-up took the middle section of the game off was also in evidence. Manchester City are favourites but there may be no other team, and certainly manager, who despite a gluttony of talent will embrace the underdog tag and he has the players at his disposal to get the better of Pep Guardiola – just as his side did when facing Bayern Munich six years ago.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid) – He was missing in action for a lot of the match but for the big moments he was involved and looked at his irresistible best. His header for the first goal was sublime but the desire he showed after a beautiful pass to follow up for his second may be a better illustration of how dangerous a player he now is. He is likely to be out of the game for large chunks at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday too, but if City lose hold of him at any time, they are likely to regret it.
Atletico Madrid: Oblak 7; Vrsaljko 7, Savic 6, Gimenez 7, Reinildo 7; Kondogbia 6; Llorente 6, Lemar 6, Lodi 7; Felix 8*, Griezmann 6.
Subs: Carrasco 6, De Paul 6, Suarez 7, Cunha 7, Felipe 6.
Alaves: Pacheco 6, Tenaglia 6, Lejeune 6, Laguardia 6, Duarte 6; Pina 7, Pons 6, Escalante 7; Edgar 6, Rioja 6; Joselu 6.
Subs: Navarro 6, Loum 6, Pellistri 6.
10’ OFFSIDE GOAL! A cross-field ball finds Lodi who squared for Lemar to slide home from six yards but Lodi was just offside.
11’ GOAL FOR ATLETI! A lovely header from Joao Felix rising to head into the roof a pinpoint cross from Simo Vrsaljko.
64’ GOAL FOR ALAVES! It was hard to see this coming, Edgar dinked a cross in from the left flank and Escalante rose to flick an unstoppable header inside the far top corner.
74’ PENALTY FOR ATLETI! It looked a ridiculous dive from Cunha but a check with VAR has decided it is a penalty for Tenaglia’s swinging boot in his vicinity.
75’ GOAL FOR ATLETI! Suarez slams the ball down the middle of the goal as Pacheco moves to his left.
82’ GOAL FOR ATLETI! Joao Felix dazzles to get free on the left flank then puts the ball on a plate for Cunha but he is denied by a fine reflex stop from Pacheco before the Portuguese star follows up to nab his second.
90+1’ GOAL FOR ATLETI! Cunha plays through Suarez and, as coolly as he has done hundreds of times before, he drew the keeper before nudging the ball past him with the outside of his boot and just inside the corner of the net.