After an unordinary game that ended with the points shared, our editors share their takes on the Barcelona 2–2 Atlético de Madrid.
Two draws in a row, two 2–2s in a row. With their third draw in four games, Barcelona continue to end their own fans’ hopes of being crowned league champions for the third consecutive time. With an own goal and three penalties involved in a bizarre match, Barça couldn’t beat Atlético de Madrid in spite of scoring two past the usually invincible Jan Oblak. What do our editors have to say on match and draw?
From hero to zero
Barcelona played well, but not well enough. Quique Setién did poor, and that could be the final straw. Usually, a draw against Simeone’s Atlético is a decent result, and without any context, the fans would have been pretty happy if the culés had played this way. Accurate passing, some great ball carriers – Hello Riqui! –, and, at times, dangerous occasions. Lionel Messi found the net once, but he could have seen it on more occasions if Jan Oblak wasn’t in goal for the colchoneros.
Luis Suárez’s extremely poor performance was a real highlight for the Catalans, especially as Setién refused to sub him off and tried to justify it afterwards. Talking about Quique, the former Real Betis manager did not use all his substitutes, and two out of the three changed came too late. Giving Ansu Fati less than ten minutes and Antoine Griezmann less than five is criminal, given Atleti’s equaliser came early in the second half.
“We didn’t bring him on before because the team was doing well, Riqui was doing well, we always try to have Suárez and Messi on the pitch”
on introducing Antoine Griezmann late
It was a good showing, not great, but Setién really ridiculed himself by choosing to overlook the fresh blood that could have cracked the code. The league is close to lost now, Quique could leave, but it’s just heartbreaking that the two best performances since the return – this game and the Celta one – only ended in draws. It has shattered many culés, and me personally.
Standout performer: Riqui Puig
In all this negativity, there is one positive, and it is the birth of Riqui Puig cementing his place as a starter. The midfielder gave everything he could and controlled Atleti’s midfield, which couldn’t take the ball off him. Him switching the play continuously was also refreshing, given none of the current midfielders in the squad, not even Arthur Melo, do that.
Also, his ability to carry the ball and not lose it stupidly is sensational. Many times during a game, the culés tell themselves that this frail little man will fall like a snowflake and give away the ball cheaply. However, in Vigo or against Atlético, he held his own by beating the press relentlessly. He came close to scoring after a fantastic run from deep into the opponents’ half, but came in vain when he arrived in front of the colossal Jan Oblak. Playing behind Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez, his work rate came clutch when he tracked back to press and when he moved forward to give Barcelona more freedom concerning movement.
Setién, edged a step closer to the exit?
As Barcelona faced Atlético, the spotlight was on Quique Setién. Would he be able to cope with the pressure? Would he go conservative and avoid a loss, or stick to his principles and play good, attacking football? After 90 minutes, the score stood 2–2, which was quite indicative of the match.
Barcelona’s transitions and fluidity were really impressive, whereas Atleti’s defensive organisation and quick expansion on the counter was excellent as well. In the end Luis Suárez’s lack of involvement, Setién’s late substitutions and a few defensive errors meant Barcelona had to settle for a draw. This puts the Catalans in a tough position as Madrid keep inching closer to the title and Barcelona continue dropping points.
Standout performer: Riqui Puig
Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, Sergio Busquets, Clément Lenglet were definitely incredible yesterday. However, personally, Riqui Puig was slightly better than them. The La Masía midfielder showed very quick thinking, great agility and excellent determination. His ability to receive the ball in tight spaces was especially prominent last night. Puig was instrumental in getting Barcelona into the final third effectively. His performance goes to show that what this team needs is direct, young players. Something which the blaugranas seem to lack recently. After this performance, it’s a step forward not only for Riqui but also for any La Masía players with the potential to play for the first team.
Surely the end of the dream?
For the second time in two games, Barcelona squandered their lead twice to finish in a disappointing 2–2. In what has become a pattern, they dictated the play for this first 30 minutes of the game, before slowly bowing out. Sergio Busquets and Clément Lenglet returned to their starting roles, giving the team much more stability, but it was often the pace of Yannick Ferreira Carrasco and Renan Lodi that outdid the Catalans.
Confusion at the Camp Nou | Photo by Paco Largo / Panoramic via Imago
Quite a rollercoaster followed, including an own goal and three penalties. While the team played well for a major part of the game, Setién’s questionable decisions on the touchline form a major topic for debate. Given the enormous impact of this game on the title race, one would have expected attacking changes to be made sooner.
Standout Performer: Riqui Puig
After a standout 86 minutes at Balaídos during the weekend, Riqui Puig got a well-deserved start in a very important game. He was deployed at the apex of the diamond midfield that Setién opted for. Throughout the game he was a lively presence in the midfield, always asking for the ball and providing a passing outlet. His presence once again upped the tempo of the blaugranas play and improved the verticality. The La Masía starlet finished the 90 minutes with 92% accuracy, 100% successful dribbles and 11 duels won, making a strong case for him to be a regular starter.
Final nail in the coffin?
Another extremely poor result. Barring a miracle, Barcelona won’t be able to defend their La Liga title this year. A wonderful game for the neutral but for fans, riddled with controversy and frustration. Awful refereeing aside, Barcelona, despite being promising overall, just fell flat by the end. Lionel Messi’s 700th career goal overshadowed by two more points dropped.
Atlético de Madrid played well, flowing forward much more freely and intentfully than usual. Defensively solid as always, they managed too see out the scoreline after their second equaliser.
Quique Setién, once again, despite seemingly having the right ideas, just refused to make subs. An absolutely bizarre decision. With all the buzz going around, his future at Barça is now even more uncertain. The team huddles during the cooling breaks striking a perfect picture of the fragmentation at Barcelona.
Standout performer: Riqui Puig
A second start in a row for the brilliant young La Masía midfielder. And once again he proves that he deserves it. An absolutely incredible showing from Puig yet again. He is without a doubt among Barça’s best players since the restart if not the best. He ran the show in midfield once again, bossing possession, breaking forward with intent, making assured passes, right decisions and showing some nifty footwork as well. And his tenacity and energy were an absolute joy to watch.
Easily the biggest positive for Barcelona to take away from this game. And if there was any doubt about him before, there shouldn’t be any now. He is an absolutely world-class talent and has shown it in one of the biggest games of the season.
Where were the subs?
Barcelona are all but out of the title race with this draw against Atlético de Madrid. The team played well, but the lack of a true winger affected the team dearly. Without someone out wide for Barça, the full-backs were made to play in a sort of wing-back position. Yannick Carrasco used his pace to exploit Nélson Semedo’s more advanced role. Their counter-attacks through Semedo’s wing led to both of the penalties, though the second one was definitely controversial.
The midfield was brilliant, and Riqui Puig was in the middle of it all. The team played well again, but the substitutions really let Barcelona down. Bringing on your brightest talent and your latest big money signing in the 85th and 90th minute respectively of a game you desperately need to win isn’t exactly logical. Suárez was, again, below par while Messi was playing ordinarily for his standards. He gave the ball away more often than usual, but still managed to show glimpses of magic.
Riqui Puig has earned a spot in the team, and possibly in the starting line-up too | Photo by Paco Largo / Panoramic via Imago
The cooling break highlighted the tension between the players and the coach. It is clear that there is a major rift in the dressing room and the effects are trickling onto the pitch. Moreover, the VAR team need to sort out what qualifies as a penalty and what doesn’t. The team was far from poor, but a combination of poor substitutions, Atlético being Atlético, and bad luck when it comes to on-field decisions led to the 2–2 draw.
Standout performer: Riqui Puig
Riqui was hands down the best player on the pitch. It was a big night for the youngster and he showed how amazing he can be. He controlled the tempo of the match and linked up magnificently with everyone. His understanding of the game was immaculate, and he created spaces like no other. He made very few mistakes and had good control on the ball. But most importantly, he was hungry to prove his worth to the team. He ran all over the pitch to not only find spaces, but also to close them down when Los rojiblancos moved forward.
His quality showed and it is clear that he has a very bright future. The Catalan has surely cemented his place in the first team with that performance.