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Three questions and three answers from Atletico Madrid 0-3 Barcelona

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Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

Barcelona tore apart Atletico Madrid at the Civitas Metropolitano last night with a performance worth being crowned as the team’s best this season.

Xavi’s men entered the game with several key starters unavailable from Pedri, Gavi, Frenkie de Jong to even Joao Cancelo and Andreas Christensen. Yet, they made easy work of Diego Simeone’s side and the scoreline reflects the same.

Joao Felix opened the scoring for the Catalans in the 38th minute of the game before Robert Lewandowski doubled the lead two minutes after the break.

Fermin Lopez put the finishing touches on the result with a stunning header in the 65th minute, killing the game and securing three points.

Barça Universal brings you three talking points from Atletico Madrid 0-3 Barcelona.

Three answers

How would Xavi line up in attack?

Facing Atletico Madrid, Xavi hoped to capitalise on Joao Felix’s determination to succeed against his parent club. The Portuguese star was thus guaranteed to start, but it was unsure as to which attacker would be rested on the night.

Raphinha and Lamine Yamal were the manager’s two options to bench, the former more tempting given the La Masia prodigy’s impact on the team in big games.

Taking a bold decision and prioritising Yamal’s fitness, Xavi ultimately benched the teenage phenom for Felix who started on the left wing. Raphinha moved back to his niche on the right flank, and the move paid dividends.

With the international break looming and Yamal called up to represent La Roja, resting him last night might well be the best decision for a number of reasons.

Could Joao Felix step up once more?

Playing against Atletico Madrid earlier in the season, Felix scored Barcelona’s winner to take three points away from his parent club.

Given that he does not see eye to eye with Simeone, his celebration showed a form of unshackling the player desperately needed.

Trusted with a start amidst his poor run of form last night, Felix once again managed to get onto the scoresheet with Barcelona’s opener.

Stepping up against a familiar foe. (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

The Portuguese forward was at the right place at the right time to get onto the end of Lewandowski’s assist and utilised just a slick touch to put the ball out of Jan Oblak’s reach.

Apart from his goal, however, Felix had a largely quiet night although it will not matter much to Xavi and Co given the result.

Could Barcelona keep up the steam?

Barcelona have been impressive in sporadic spells this season, but their problem has always remained to maintain the steam for 90 minutes.

The team’s performance against Napoli midweek in the UEFA Champions League saw the Azulgranas play some of their best attacking football, but as is the norm, they came under severe pressure in the second half once more.

Last night, Barcelona kept control of the game from start to finish. They cruised to a relatively comfortable win with few hiccups against an opposition that is also in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League, carrying forward the momentum from the last game.

Most importantly, they maintained the steam relatively comfortably for the better part of the game without giving Los Rojiblancos many inroads in their half. A positive way to enter the international break.

Three questions

Is Robert Lewandowski returning to his best?

Robert Lewandowski has rightly been one of Barcelona’s most criticised players this season, for his finishing for the first half of the campaign was horrendous. The Pole was largely disconnected from the events on the field and sloppy with his chances.

A lot has changed since Xavi announced his departure at the end of the season. His performance against Atletico Madrid last night, in many ways, was his best showing all season.

The Polish veteran did brilliantly to find Felix from a tight spot for the team’s opener, setting up the Portuguese star with an open goal. His strike for the team’s second was one of his best goals of the season.

Receiving the ball after a sloppy pass from Rodrigo De Paul, Lewandowski pulled over to the right side before shooting the ball into the left side of the goal with a completely out-of-balance position. An angle only for the best.

To top off his performance, the former Bayern Munich star provided a perfect cross to find Fermin Lopez for the team’s third. A goal, two assists. and three big chances created. Talk about responsibility.

What can’t Ilkay Gundogan do?

Barcelona’s best player of the season? (Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images)

Ilkay Gundogan was set to start as Barcelona’s interior last night, but a last-minute change in the lineup forced him to cover for the injured Andreas Christensen.

Suddenly thrown into the defensive midfielder role, one would expect the German to take a while to adapt to the situation. Ilkay Gundogan, however, required no such pre-requisite.

Stepping into the pivot position, the German superstar once again controlled the midfield. Operating from a deeper position, he restricted his vertical runs but continued to orchestrate the team’s build-up with his creative vision.

In 90 minutes, Gundogan recorded two key passes, three long balls, completed 91% of his passes and provided 14 defensive actions. A true masterclass.

How long can La Masia keep pulling Barça through?

The only reason Barcelona are relatively comfortable despite their jeopardised finances is La Masia. While not much needs to be said about the likes of Gavi and Alejandro Balde, the latest crop of teenage sensations are no less.

Pau Cubarsi has been phenomenal at the back, and once again pocketed some of the world’s best strikers. To eliminate the likes of Alvaro Morata and Antoine Griezmann from a high-profile game at 17 years of age is truly unnatural.

But it was not just the young centre-back who left a mark. Hector Fort and Fermin Lopez both shone in their respective positions, only proving the value of La Masia once more.

Fort started at left-back in place of Joao Cancelo who was unavailable. For Xavi to trust him over Marcos Alonso speaks volumes of the manager’s trust in the youngster, and he did not disappoint against Nahuel Molina and Marcos Llorente.

Lopez, meanwhile, was visibly sensational in attack as he constantly pushed forward to break through Atletico’s defence.

Despite being a last-minute addition to the lineup, he got through on goal repeatedly and was rewarded with the team’s third goal.

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