Barcelona have taken the first leg of the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal after a fantastic 2-1 comeback victory over Atlético Madrid in a tense, controversial match. There is a lot to unpack about what we saw at Camp Nou, but these are a few talking points from a great home victory.
1. The simpler the better
We touched on this after El Clásico, and history repeated itself on Tuesday, especially in the first half: Luis Enrique tried to overthink his tactics and once again brought Lionel Messi to the middle to try and create more. The problem is that Atleti had a 4-1-4-1 formation until the sending off, and Gabi took care of the Argentine as the lone pivote in front of the defense.
In the second half, Enrique just did the simple thing: start Messi on the wing and have him drift into the middle instead of having there from the start. Lucho sent his full-backs forward, organized his men to stop the counter-attacks before they become dangerous and just asked his players to play as they usually do. It worked a lot, with the Blaugrana having a phenomenal performance in the final period and getting the victory.
The lesson is clear here: you don't need to revolutionize the tactics for every game with this particular squad. The less complicated, the more they'll thrive. They need room to make magic, not to obey blindly to tactics that don't suit their best assets. Simple football for Barça is world-beating football. Let's stick to that.
2. The second half is something to be proud of
Tactically, there was nothing special, and talent-wise, we just saw Barça be Barça. There was one thing about that second half that made me, personally, so proud: the fighting spirit and the will to win. That attitude of "I don't care how good your defense is, I'm shooting against you until I score" is something that was lacking lately. The desperation worked in a great way, with the players sensing they needed a victory to qualify for the semifinals. They did not stop going after the goals, and even when they turned the score around, they still didn't stop.
As a fan, I celebrated those two Luis Suárez goals like I did in the Berlin Final against Juventus. They meant a lot, and they were the result of not only a display of talent and skills from a special group of players, but also an unstoppable desire of winning the game even against the best opposition.
Thank you for the fight, guys. You've made me proud.
3. The Camp Nou crowd can be awesome
That is another thing that caught my eye (and ears): how invested in the game were the fans. Let's be honest: Camp Nou crowds are boring in most games, they are mostly taking photos of the stadium and celebrating on the goals and making noises on nice individual plays. Tuesday's Camp Nou felt like a true home field advantage: as soon as Atleti scored, the fans were chanting as loud as they could. Our own Arron Duckling was in the stadium, and he mentioned his surprise with the intensity of the crowd. And what they did in the second half was truly special.
Unfortunately, we don't see those types of crowds in every game. But you better be damn sure the fans had a lot to do with the win.