Barcelona have not been the same team ever since their El Clasico defeat against Real Madrid. Camp Nou witnessed a tactical demonstration from Zinedine Zidane which is now being followed by every team playing against the La Liga Champions.
We saw the other team from Madrid go with similar tactics and almost getting the job done. But a red card to Fernando Torres spoiled Atletico’s plan. Barcelona, however, were set for further troubles when Real Sociedad managed to keep the MSN trio at bay and get a shock 1-0 win.
Going in to their Champions League quarter final second leg tie, Luis Enrique’s side were low on confidence and despite Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar in their ranks, they were unsure of how they would score a goal.
Atletico Madrid have the meanest defense in Europe this season where they have kept a remarkable 26 clean sheets. Given the barren run Barcelona have had in recent weeks, Atletico Madrid were the last side they could have come up against.
Diego Simeone prides on making his opponents earn their wins and an under-confident Barca side were more likely to falter. The game was a perfect example of why Barcelona’s exit from the Champions League was not a surprise.
Throughout the first half, the busiest players for Barcelona were their goal keeper and central defenders. Atletico’s pressing was relentless and it never allowed Barca to come out of their own half. Number of long balls played by The Catalans was the most they have done this season and at certain stages of the game reigning Champions looked short of ideas.
Atletico were potent in their attacks as well which saw them score from Antoine Griezmann’s clinical finish in the first half and a neat penalty penalty kick in the second. 2-0 score-line was a true reflection of Barcelona’s downfall in recent weeks. Despite having over 60% of the possession, all Barca could muster was shots from distance and square balls among their players.
Atletico’s defending deserves due credit which stood firm specially in the central areas. Lionel Messi is now on a 6-game game run without scoring a goal and much of that was down to Diego Godin and his troops which kept a close eye on not only Messi but took Suarez and Neymar out of the game as well.
Champions League exit have certainly ended Barcelona’s hopes of winning the treble this season. Following their recent dip in form, Barca are certainly not guaranteed to win La Liga title either. They are just 3 points clear of Atletico and 4 points ahead of Real Madrid.
If Catalans continue to drop points in coming games, they could end the season with very little to show for after creating all sorts of goal-scoring record earlier in the season. Their Champions League loss was hardly surprising and if they manage to goof-up in their La Liga title chase, it won’t be surprising either given their recent form.
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