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Three talking points from Barcelona 1-0 Atletico Madrid | La Liga

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Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images

Barcelona’s win over Atletico Madrid on Matchday 15 of La Liga EA Sports had everything to praise. From the compact defence to the free-flowing midfield, Inaki Pena’s goalkeeping to Joao Felix’s roar in the final third, Barcelona were imperious on the night.

The game may not have been perfect in every sense, for the final 15 minutes saw the hosts scamper from pillar to post in defence. Nevertheless, one cannot deny the commendable improvement in Barcelona’s performance over the past two games, and the results are a testament to the same.

Barça Universal brings you three talking points from Barcelona 1-0 Atletico Madrid.

The perfect vengeance

All the storylines ahead of Barcelona’s clash against Atletico Madrid directly or indirectly involved Joao Felix. The young Portuguese winger, after all, was Los Rojiblancos’ record signing but had left the club on loan earlier this year on very bad terms.

It was no secret that the Portuguese star did not see eye to eye with Diego Simeone or his principles. The Argentine tactician’s defence-centred plans caged Felix for years, not allowing him to spread his wings and reach the heights he is capable of.

The sheer relief, joy and passion in Felix’s celebration last night after scoring said a lot. The youngster has scored for Barcelona before, but never roared after a goal the way he did last night. It was special for him, and what better time to step up.

Felix’s night, however, was more than just his atrocious chip over Jan Oblak in the first half. He was Barcelona’s best player in the final third by far and a constant threat to Atletico Madrid’s defence as long as he stayed on the field.

In 77 minutes, the 24-year-old recorded two shots, one successful dribble and one key pass in addition to a pass completion rate of 90%. His runs between the lines, link-up play with Robert Lewandowski, Pedri and Joao Cancelo and sheer quality was Barcelona’s key to unlocking Atleti’s defence on the night.

In fact, Felix could well have had a hat-trick to his name with the same performance on another night.

A precious result

An important victory. (Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)

The pressure ahead of the kickoff was very much on Barcelona. The Colchoneros were indeed on level points with Xavi’s side before the game, but their game in hand gave them an edge worth its weight in gold.

Moreover, Atletico Madrid were the team in better form heading into the clash. Barcelona were just beginning to find their footing, but Los Rojiblancos were without a defeat in their last 14 games.

For a team slowly falling behind on the leaderboard, Sunday’s win comes as a much-needed boost – not only from a mental standpoint but also in terms of direct implications on the leaderboard.

Barcelona have now leapfrogged to third place on the table, four points adrift from the leaders Real Madrid and Girona. They are still alive in the race and could cut the deficit with a win over Girona next week. 

Atletico Madrid can still catch up with Barcelona as well, however, if they win their game in hand against Sevilla.

Not much needs to be said about the sporting implications of the result. As Xavi pointed out in his post-game press conference, it was one of Barcelona’s best performances of the season in terms of intensity and attacking character and will go a long way in creating fortitude in the minds of Catalan stars.

Delicate defensive balance

There was something about Barcelona’s performance last night that reminisced one of their defence last season. The Catalans’ backline did indeed show the grit required to maintain a clean sheet, but there was an element of added stability at the back that has been missing all season.

Ironically, the best possible hypothesis would suggest that the security in defence was because Xavi Hernandez deployed a centre-back at right-back on the night, an accommodation that was considered normal last season.

Ronald Araujo and Andreas Christensen started in the heart of defence against Simeone’s men while Jules Kounde played at right-back. And while it seemed last season that the lack of a natural right-back was Barcelona’s Achilles heel, it turns out it was the team’s greatest strength.

The only difference in last night’s game was the presence of Joao Cancelo at left-back over Alejandro Balde. While it is unfair on the young La Masia graduate to be pushed out of business by the team’s right-back, Cancelo is concurrently Barcelona’s best left-back too.

After a man-of-the-match performance against Porto, the Manchester City star maintained his high level on the left last night. He completed two successful dribbles, provided a key pass and recorded eight defensive actions at Montjuic.

One is thus forced to ponder if the Kounde-Araujo-Christensen-Cancelo combination is Xavi’s best defensive lineup this season. After all, the system does come with its own problems in that the central defenders do not wish to play as full-backs and it reduces the talented Balde to a mere presence on the bench.

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