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From The Mind of Xoel: Barça Gets a Good 0-0 Draw at Atletico

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It was an intense game at the Vicente Calderon, as Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona split the points with a 0-0 draw on Saturday night. In this article, Xoel Càrdenas gives you his take on the game, the good performance by the Barça defense, Tata's game plan, and what we learned from this game.

King Leo
King Leo
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno

FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid showed the world why they are the two best teams in La Liga with an intense, passionate game that ended in a 0-0 draw at the Vicente Calderon on Saturday night.

From the start, Atleti pushed hard to get that opening goal. Diego Costa had a few opportunities in the first half, but Javier Mascherano and Gerard Pique did a good job to contain the Brazilian. Lionel Messi came into the game in the second half, and Neymar was substituted on later in the game, but neither was able to get a goal. Messi had the best chance, but his header went just wide. The game ended in a well-deserved draw from both teams.

Let's get to the Best, and two "What We Learned" from this game.

The Best: Javier Mascherano and Gerard Pique

In my opinion, Javier Mascherano and Gerard Pique played a great game. Both centre-backs had a tough challenge, as they had to contain one of the best strikers in the world in Diego Costa.

Some fans ask why Marc Bartra-who has been the best CB for Barça this season-did not start. While Bartra has been great, Tata Martino knew this was going to be an intense match, and needed a physically more intense CB in his lineup. Mascherano is that kind of CB, and it made sense to put him into the game to battle Diego Costa instead of Bartra, who is taller than Masche, but not as psychically strong and, to be quite frank, as intense/risk-taker as Mascherano. Bartra will get stronger and tougher, but for this game, Javier needed to be in the game. El Jefecito did a great job, as well as Gerard Pique. Mr. Shakira was pure class the first half of the game, and kept playing well in the second half.

What We Learned, Part I: Tata Martino's game plan worked

When the starting lineup was announced, many where shocked that neither Messi nor Neymar were in the starting lineup. That's why I never write dumb, pointless "predicting the starting lineup" articles. Never know what the manager is planning, so what's the point?

What Tata was planning was to slow down the game to help the defense by not giving Atletico Madrid counterattacking opportunities. Even though I'm not a fan of Cesc Fabregas at the False 9 spot, Tata putting Cesc at the False 9 spot helped Barcelona slow down the game a bit, as well as put an extra body in the midfield to disrupt the Atleti midfielders.

Jordi Alba nor Dani Alves made too many runs on offense. Part of this is because they knew they couldn't run up forward too many times because Atleti could counterattack, and with them playing forward, the back line falls to three or two defenders (CBs) instead of four defenders. Perhaps Tata told both Alves and Alba to keep their forward attacks to a minimum.

At halftime, I'm sure Tata was pleased with his teams performance. Of course Tata wanted to get the win, but I'm sure he's satisfied with getting a draw at the Vicente Calderon, one of the toughest places for a visiting team to play at in all of La Liga.

What We Learned, Part II: La Liga will not be won by Real Madrid, but they may determine who wins it

As I just said, La Liga will not be won by Real Madrid, but they may determine who wins it. What do I mean by this? If any non-regular La Liga fans who watched the Barça game noticed, this Atletico Madrid team has been and is for real. They are not going anywhere. Of course we know Barcelona will be battling for the title as well.

While a 0-0 draw in Saturday's Atleti/Barça game was good news for Real Madrid, overall, it is not all-good news for Madrid. Why? Because since Barça nor Atleti took a step back in the Liga standings, now Real Madrid will now have to depend on all the other teams in La Liga to try and knock down/out both Barça and Atleti in order for Madrid to have a shot to win La Liga.

This will not happen.

I don't see Barcelona slipping up, and it's very unlikely Atletico slips either. If Madrid were behind only one team, either Barça or Atleti, then Madrid's chances are greater. But Madrid has two teams ahead of them. Even though the Barça and Atleti lead is not very big, two teams having to slip up is too much for Madrid to hope for; a Madrid team that, for years now, plays inconsistently too many times in La Liga. That's why Real Madrid will not win La Liga.

That being said, Real Madrid could be the determiners when it comes to who wins La Liga. Barcelona has to go to the Santiago Bernabeu in late March, and Atletico hosts Madrid in early March. Real Madrid's only two losses of the Liga season came from Barça and Atleti. Surely Madrid won't go 0-4 against Atleti and Barça this season, right? A win or draw against either team will help make Real Madrid play the role of spoiler, and perhaps bring either Atleti or Barça's title hopes down.

What's Next?: Thursday at Getafe

With a 4-0 aggregate lead in their Copa del Rey match-up against Getafe, look for Tata Martino to play a few of the non-regular starters in the game. Sergi Roberto should get a start, in my opinion, as well as Alex Song and Cristian Tello. Perhaps this is a good game to bring back Ibrahim Afellay, who is now 100% healthy, and needs a few minutes in a competitive game.

Xoel's Final Word

It was an intense game, with both teams fighting for the win, but in the end, FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid split the points in a well-deserved 0-0 draw. I don't know about you, but I am very satisfied with a 0-0 draw in this game; on the road at the Vicente Calderon, against this very good Atletico Madrid team. The La Liga title may come down to the Barça vs. Atleti game in the final match-day of the season in May. Thank goodness it's going to be at the Camp Nou; being at home for that game may make all the difference for Barça.

Due to goal differential, FC Barcelona is the first-half Liga champions. The second half of the La Liga season begins next weekend. But for now, let's focus on closing out Getafe in Copa del Rey action midweek.

Winter Liga champions is OK. But FC Barcelona wants to be Liga champions, period.

So far, it's looking good for Barça to do just that.

Vamos!

Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona

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