A tightly contested fixture, which comprised of lengthy spells of possession from Barcelona and effective counter-pressing, but in the end, an old school Atletico Madrid were repaid the 3 points for their diligent defending and maximized discipline at the back.
Diego Simeone’s side persevered in patience and made the most of Ter Stegen’s error in the first half. After taking a long-awaited lead, the remainder of the game proved to be a stroll in the park for Los Rojibloncos
As Barcelona continue to worsen their situation in the league, concerns are mounting over the effectiveness of the 4-2-3-1 formation and the use of personnel by Ronald Koeman, who has had a tough start to life in Catalonia. In an unconvincing and dismaying 1-0 defeat, here’s how the players fared at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen: 3
An unmemorable performance from the German, who’s uncharacteristic decision making cost Barça a match-defining goal. To Ter Stegen’s credit, he made a marvellous save from Saul’s shot early on in the game. However, his error of judgement in the concluding stages of the first half gave away the goal as well as any chances of securing a point from a hard-fought fixture for the Blaugranas.
Sergi Roberto: 7
Did a solid job at defending, distributed the ball well and maintained impressive link up plays with Dembélé down the right flank; The 28 year old Spaniard delivered a commendable performance. As per usual however, he did not maintain a balance between pushing up and staying back, often getting carried away with Barcelona’s lengthy spells of possession, which resulted in tons of counter attacking plays for Atletico down their left flank.
Gerard Pique: 6
Piqué sulking off in tears after taking a brutal blow to the knee added to the anguish that the Culés had suffered throughout the game. However, as painful as it was to witness the Spaniard go through so much agony, Piqué did not play quite like the tactically smart centre-back he has asserted himself to be.
Out for a few months, at the very least. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)
While the 33-year-old may have made a couple of brilliant tackles, it has to be said that his positioning at times was exceptionally substandard. Atletico’s bloodthirsty forwards pounced on the Catalans whenever an opportunity to burst forward arose, capitalizing on Geri’s inept positioning in the closing stages of the first half as Ter Stegen rushed forward to fill in for his absence.
Clement Lenglet: 7
The Frenchman had an admirable exhibition. Lenglet made little to no mistakes in his positioning and was reliable as always in winning his duels. In fact, this time around, he even succeeded at defending crosses which is known to be an area of weakness for him. However, had he made the most of a Messi cross by placing his header at either side of Oblak in the second half, Barça could have salvaged a point from this challenging fixture.
Jordi Alba: 7
The Spanish left-back had a satisfactory performance. Although Jordi Alba was scarcely troubled on the defensive side of the field down the left flank, he proved to be a principal source of threat for the Catalans down a vacant left flank, marauding up-field with pace and assurance. The 31 year old also created a momentous opportunity for Messi through an immaculate through pass, but to his dismay, the chance was left begging.
Miralem Pjanic: 6
Replacing Sergio Busquets in a clash of such stature is not a task for the fainthearted, and Miralem certainly had a displeasing game in accordance to his standards.
While the Bosnian constantly kept things moving and recycled possession on a few instances, he did not offer a considerable amount of defensive solidity or pose any threat moving up-field. His traditional long balls were nowhere to be seen, but in his defense, lack of runners and stiff off the ball movement always led to him searching for opportunities that never truly presented themselves.
Frenkie De Jong: 6.5
Although De Jong was devoid of any medium of spark or creativity, the Dutchman distributed the ball adeptly and fulfilled his obligations with relative ease; it was his reliable figure on the field that allowed Barça keep a stronghold in possession.
📸 — Let's leave this here. pic.twitter.com/dLln5nLGxG— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) November 21, 2020
Frenkie’s defensive assiduity was also an applaudable facet of his gameplay as he emerged successful in 6 out of 8 ground duels and won his only aerial duel.
Ousmane Dembele: 7
The Frenchman arguably produced one of his most encouraging performances against a low block this campaign. In spite of often being accused for his lack of discipline and inept awareness in possession, Dembouz was one of the few players posing a threat to Atleti’s rigid back-line, making runs behind the defense and providing a sense of flair.
Dembele brought life to the right flank, for 45 minutes, at least. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)
Of course, it was by no means an exemplary display, especially considering his impact severely lessened after proceedings. Still, signs of improvement are visible, and consistent game time is surely going to help him regain his rhythm.
Antoine Griezmann: 4
Griezmann’s homecoming was yet again marred with an unsatisfactory performance as the Frenchman withered into an uninspiring figure on the field. Struggling to provide that killer pass or situate himself in prominent goalscoring positions, the 29-year-old was just another deer caught in the headlights.
After a promising display against Real Betis in the League and a fairly influential international break, the World Cup winner failed to do his immense status justice on the night it mattered most. Without Simeone’s commanding figure comforting him from the sidelines, he proved to be a pale shadow of his former self.
Ronald Koeman’s fascination for Pedri has unquestionably bore the club fruit on various occasions this season, but on this particular occasion, against a side that were physically robust and unforgiving, Barcelona’s gem struggled to impact the game in any way whatsoever.
Pedri was clearly suffering the consequences of football’s demanding schedule and having been surrounded by at least 2-3 Atletico players whenever he received the ball evidently deteriorated his influence.
As was the case in the Clásico, Pedri failed to stretch the oppositions adeptly and was physically outmuscled. It’s vital for Koeman not to overburden the youngster and ensure his development is steady; as meteoric as his rise maybe, he is still a work in progress.
Lionel Messi: 6
Failing to mirror his performance from the last time he faced Atletico at the Wanda, Lionel Messi was effectively contained by the compact Atleti defence, which disabled Leo from rising to the occasion and stealing the headlines.
The Argentine was one of the Blaugranas‘ few defining threats in the final third, but as his attempts were usually marked with failure, Barça’s talisman had an underwhelming day. Whether Messi feels fatigued or has lost the will to play for the club, one can safely deem this version of the South American to be his most ineffective in recent times. Then again, at 33 years of age, expectations must gradually be lowered from the ageing veteran.
Philippe Coutinho: 6
Sergino Dest: 6.5
Franisco Trincao: 5
Barcelona player ratings vs Sevilla — Hosts unable to get past Mingueza, the wall
Turning headless chickens into mature students of the game turned out to be Ronald Koeman’s biggest achievement at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, where the Catalan giants had recently just suffered a disappointing loss. On the score-sheet, the margin may not have looked considerable, but on the field, Barcelona were pretty much untouchable, courtesy in large parts to the structural change made by Koeman.
A performance this cohesive and harmonized was much needed after the countless defeats Barça have suffered on the big stage. Everything Cules have strived to see in this team, was present, and while consistency has been the club’s biggest hurdle, this win undoubtedly holds a great deal of significance.
The Blaugranas have arguably exerted more energy in other games over the course of the campaign, but the spirit Barcelona lacked suddenly came to life. The pressing was in sync, every move was calculated and well crafted. Playing the Barcelona way in hostile territory against a team as dominant as Sevilla brought back life into a team devoid of wins in high magnitude encounters.
Marc-André Ter Stegen: 7
Ter Stegen oozed confidence as he came off his line and claimed the ball several times. Not only did he display composure, but the German rushed out of his box on one occasion to clear the ball and remove any danger that Sevilla’s potential attack possessed. With the exception of a poor pass, his distribution was immaculate. Even so, it must be admitted that the Sevilla forwards barely tested ter Stegen in goal with dangerous attempts on target.
Oscar Mingueza: 8.5
Oscar Mingueza was a vital reason as to why the Blaugrana defence was impenetrable. Piementa’s prodigy did not allow Lopetegui’s men to advance into any areas on the right side of the field. He won 6 out his 9 duels along winning 5 tackles, proving the 21-year-old’s precise ball-winning abilities remain crucial. Not to mention, his exceptional ball-playing ability enabled Barça to play with a high line thus applying further pressure on Sevilla.
Pique was the nail in the coffin to Barça’s counter-pressing strategies. The players would press the Sevilla Keeper and force him to heave the ball away, and this is where Pique’s aerial ability flourished, which particularly authorized the Catalans to regain possession. The Spanish veteran won 5 out of 7 of his aerial duels, thus showing his dominance in that area of play. His distribution was reliable as always and allowed the Catalans to retain a high defensive line at selected times.
The Frenchman is on route to recovering the form he once had, and this performance should do his confidence a world of good. Still prone to making errors, he dealt with Sevilla’s threat in a respectable manner. An improvement was observed in his ability to stay ahead of his man, which led to his positioning being marginally better. His second-half performance was key to the win as he stepped up after Pique and Ronald Araujo had to be subbed off. Lenglet must be appreciated for his tackling as they successfully neutralized a few well-structured attacks from the hosts.
Sergiño Dest: 7
Despite typically being perceived as a full-back, Ronald Koeman handed Dest the responsibility to play higher up the field as a right-wing-back. The American speedster enjoyed his new role with piercing runs behind Sevilla’s defence and looked a lot more explosive, with defensive cover behind him.
Sergino Dest vs Sevilla:— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) February 28, 2021
• Touches: 58
• Accurate passes: 36/42 (86%)
• Shots: 2
• Ground duels (won): 4 (2)
• Fouls won: 2
• Clearances: 2
• Interceptions: 2
— SofaScore pic.twitter.com/IjN74fDwhc
Dest launched a couple of promising crosses, but a major issue was that he shied away from entering 1v1 duels and instinctively looked to send in crosses. The US international also came oh-so-close to scoring after striking the post on one occasion.
Jordi Alba: 7.5
Similar to his wing-back partner in crime, Jordi Alba raided forward at any given opportunity, stretching the play wide and utilizing his raw pace throughout. Without having to worry about his defensive duties, the marauding Spaniard looked a lot more imposing. He was just inches away from tapping the ball into the opposition net after proceedings.
Frenkie de Jong: 8.5
De Jong’s season just proceeds to take massive leaps as the Dutchman proved to be a defining factor in the Catalans’ applaudable 2-0 victory. In spite of not stamping his name on the score-sheet, De Jong’s performance was worthy of endless praise, almost making it seem as if he was carrying around an extra pair of lungs. The former Ajax wonderboy surged forward, breaking the opposition’s lines tirelessly and constantly squirming his way out of tight areas.
Sergio Busquets: 7.5
The ageing veteran appeared to be recreating glimpses from the past as his counter-pressing was absolutely decisive in the Catalans’ attacking plays. Sergio Busquets – unlike most big game he has participated in – was not cheaply bullied off the ball and made possession purposeful for the Blaugranas. With defensive aid behind him, Busquets was back to his brilliant best.
The cog in Ronald Koeman’s midfield was once again a trusty figure in midfield and managed to string together some impressive plays in what appeared to be a 3-5-2 formation. Though Pedri’s involvement was substantially lower than usual, his display was mainly impeded by an injury he suffered in the 71st minute, disabling him from completing the full 90 minutes.
Lionel Messi: 8.5
Against his favourite opposition, Lionel Messi savoured the occasion to the fullest. The Argentine was an influential figure in the club’s victory away from home, with his creativity and efficiency in front of goal second to none. In the 29th minute of the game, Leo spotted a raiding Ousmane Dembélé through on goal as he bagged himself an assist for the Frenchman’s finish.
To cap off his outing, Barcelona’s captain weaved his way past a couple of Sevilla defenders and, after failing to chip the keeper, delicately slotted it into the net.
Ousmane Dembélé: 8
Sevilla were haplessly left chasing Ousmane Dembélé’s shadows. The Frenchman – without having to worry about his defensive tasks – waltzed forward continuously and enjoyed playing as a secondary striker, making runs in behind the defence and eventually proving his worth with a beautifully placed goal just before the half-hour mark. A much more mature and composed exhibition from the electric winger.
Ilaix Moriba: 7
Ronald Araujo: N/A
Martin Braithwaite: N/A
Samuel Umtiti: N/A