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Fantastic Felix and perfect Pena help Barcelona find form at just the right time

Super performance

FC Barcelona v Atletico Madrid - LaLiga EA Sports Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images

That’s more like it!

The first 45 minutes especially against Atletico Madrid, was easily the best that Barca have played in the 2023-24 campaign.

If we want to be hyper-critical, the only real concern before the break was the inability to put away a plethora of decent chances.

Now is not the time to moan and groan however.

Atleti were the form team in La Liga heading into this match, and, aside from the final 15-20 minutes or so, they were well beaten.

The urgency, desire and intensity that Xavi has been calling for was in evidence, and it showed that Barca can still be a brilliant footballing side when everything just ‘clicks.’

Frenkie de Jong’s presence in the side really does make a huge difference. The way he consistently turns defence into attack is effortless, but it’s his work rate that makes him stand out from his contemporaries.

It’s not unfair to suggest that the team should be built around the Dutchman either. He’s that good.

On the night, however, the plaudits have to go to Joao Felix and Inaki Pena. What a performance from the pair at opposite ends of the pitch.

Unusually, Felix was allowed to play against his parent club, and up until the point when he was subbed off, he’d terrorised his old team-mates.

On another night he might even have plundered a well deserved hat-trick.

That the Rojiblancos were keen to chop him down at any given opportunity shows how easily he managed to get under their skin, and pictures of Diego Simeone looking to the skies knowing Felix had done a job on his side in that regard were priceless.

The visitors had clearly allowed that to cloud their judgment for they seemed more intent on denying the Portuguese the time and space to become a match winner than fighting the fires that were cropping up all over the pitch. Barca were rampant at times.

Were it not for Inaki Pena’s heroics, particularly late on, all of the Blaugranes efforts would’ve been in vain.

His stop from Memphis’ free-kick was world class. Had Marc-Andre ter Stegen made it, we’d all be purring, so it’s right that the custodian gets a chance to have his name in lights.

Another point blank stop from Correa in the dying embers of the game helped to land all three points and with it the confidence to potentially bring Girona down a peg or two next weekend.

Porto - tick. Atleti - tick. Girona - ?

We’d have taken the current upturn in form even as recently as a couple of weeks ago, and the only question now is whether Xavi and the squad can begin to build from it.

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