Although the match against Atletico Madrid had the feel of an end of season ‘dead rubber’ at times, there was still enough to admire about Barcelona’s play against a perennially difficult opponent.
Let’s not forget that Cholo Simeone’s side were unbeaten in 13 before Sunday’s game, and he’d gone with a five-man defence as well as playing on the counter-attack, both of which Barca have struggled significantly with in the past.
There was the odd scary moment - two of which were supplied by ex-Barca man, Antoine Griezmann - including one in the opening minute, and Atleti were more of a threat the longer the game went on as they went in search of the equaliser.
The visitors hadn’t been behind in a game since January 8, which speaks of some quality defending again from the back four and Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
For long periods Barca’s defence had the game under control and indeed, they looked at ease during various passages of play which may have given the mistaken impression that Kounde, Araujo, Alonso and Balde were a little lazy.
Comfortable might be a better description, and that lack of panic has only come about as a result of the trust between each other and a stellar campaign so far - which could end up being a record-breaking one in terms of goals conceded.
And if we’re talking about the best goalkeeper in the world right now, Ter Stegen surely has to get the nod ahead of the likes of Thibaut Courtois et al. The German has been nothing short of immaculate and he was again on Sunday as he commanded his area with aplomb.
Moving further up the pitch, what a difference it made having Frenkie de Jong back to doing what he does best. Very much a case of ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till you lose it’ in the Dutchman’s absence.
Much maligned by a fair portion of the Barca fan base, he gave the midfield the dynamism that Gavi offers, but with more control. It also allowed the hosts greater flexibility in terms of attack given de Jong’s ability to provide an option as the extra man.
Though he only played for an hour, Ferran Torres deserves a pat on the back for his industry and effervescence.
Consistently keeping his markers busy, his finish for the opener showed everyone what he’s capable of, even if we’ve seen precious little of that over the season.
He looked aggrieved to be replaced and rightly so, but what a joy to see Pedri back in his natural habitat.
The term generational talent is widely used these days, often incorrectly, but it’s a moniker that sits well on the young Spaniard’s shoulders. He is effortless on the football pitch and an utter joy to behold.
Next time Barca play, just spend a few minutes watching his movement. Nothing else, just that. He brings an entirely different perspective to any game and one that’s utterly beautiful and, dare I say it, educational.
On the opposite wing to Ferran, Raphinha was excellent. He can blow hot and cold but no one can say he didn’t give his all on Sunday. If Robert Lewandowski hadn’t been so selfish, the Brazilian would’ve bagged a goal to add to his assist, and another if he could’ve reacted better to the centre-forward’s cross.
He looked dejected to be brought off late on, and perhaps didn’t see the significance of Xavi allowing him the standing ovation that his performance deserved.