Barcelona solidified their claim to the top spot in La Liga with a 1-0 victory over Atlético Madrid at the Camp Nou yesterday but it was their efforts in defence that impressed most.
A moment of magic from Lionel Messi may have been the only goal scored in the match but make no mistake, this was a commanding performance.
Atlético have been on a roll of late. Having scored eleven goals in their past three matches there were many who believed this to be the game that Barcelona finally lost but the league leaders remain unbeaten after stifling Los Colchoneros’ attack.
Despite producing just one shot on target, Atlético coach Diego Simeone was adamant in the post-match press conference that the only difference between the two sides was the iconic play of Lionel Messi.
”If we take Messi and put him in an Atlético shirt, we win this match 1-0,” Simeone said.
Source | Marca
Messi is a proven game changer but the way in which Barcelona shut down their rivals’ attempts to get into scoring positions leaves a question mark over the validity of Simeone’s claim.
Hypotheticals aside, what we did see during the match was the star pairing of Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa reduced to mere spectators. Sergio Busquets, Gerard Piqué and Samuel Umtiti smothered their attempts to level the score like autumn leaves covering the Catalan countryside. Piqué was especially impressive. Despite playing on an injured knee the centre-back won seven aerial duels and completed over 93% of his passes.
Such defensive prowess from the Blaugrana ensured that the torrid run of form at the Camp Nou continued for Atlético Madrid. They haven’t won there since 2006, Diego Costa has yet to score a goal against the Blaugrana and Antoine Griezmann has never scored at the iconic stadium.
So once again this season we see a Barcelona team that is markedly different. The purists will undoubtedly turn their noses up at this new style of play but there’s little chance that coach Ernesto Valverde will deviate from his tried and tested tactics, and he’s right in not doing so. The results speak for themselves.
The Blaugrana have shown glimpses of the divine play that has been a trademark of the club in recent years but it’s something that has failed to eventuate on a consistent basis.
What has become apparent though is the team’s ability to work as a cohesive unit defensively. The victory over Atlético Madrid may have been vital to ensuring Barcelona kept one hand firmly on the La Liga title but more importantly it showed that this team isn’t averse to grinding out tough wins through their defensive capabilities.