Barcelona 2-0 Atletico Madrid: Talking points as Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez do it again

Andy West 7/04/2019
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Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez

Barcelona effectively wrapped up their eighth La Liga title in 11 seasons with a 2-0 victory over ten-men Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou on Saturday night.

Although the title has not been mathematically secured, Barca now hold an 11-point lead over their nearest challengers with just seven games remaining – and that gap is really worth 12 points as the leaders also hold the head-to-head advantage over second-placed Atletico – so it would take a freak sequence of results to stop them.

There were plenty of talking points to emerge from the action as Atletico’s ten men held firm for a long time before eventually being worn down – let’s review the best of the action.

SIMEONE GOES FOR IT DESPITE COSTA DISMISSAL 

Gerard Pique and Diego Costa

Gerard Pique and Diego Costa

Visiting boss Diego Simeone pledged before the game that he would take an attacking approach, knowing that only a victory would be good enough to keep his team’s realistic title hopes alive.

And he was true to his word, with Atletico regularly pushing forward in the opening stages and enjoying several extended spells of possession.

Even when Diego Costa was dramatically sent off for dissent after half an hour, Simeone still would not yield to the temptation to adopt a more cautious approach.

Instead of shoring up his defence and sitting back, he took off right-back Santiago Arias and introduced another forward, Angel Correa, with midfielder Thomas Partey dropping back into defence as the team adopted a 4-3-2 shape.

It was inevitable that Atletico would have a lot less of the ball after going down to ten men, but they still showed attacking endeavour whenever the opportunity arose.

And Simeone made an even bolder decision after an hour, bringing on yet another forward as Alvaro Morata replaced left-back Filipe Luis and the team moving to a 4-2-3 formation.

OBLAK SHINES IN DEFEAT

Jan Oblak denies Luis Suarez

Jan Oblak denies Luis Suarez

There’s no doubt, though, that Costa’s red card was a key moment in the match and Simeone must be furious with his striker for getting himself sent off by launching into an unnecessary foul-mouthed tirade after an innocuous free-kick decision in a harmless midfield position.

With Barca able to use their man’s advantage to dominate possession, the second half in particular was an almost constant tide of pressure towards the Atletico goal, with the visitors only surviving as long as they did thanks to goalkeeper Jan Oblak, who underlined his reputation as one of the best goalkeepers in the world with a fabulous display.

The Slovenian shot-stopper had already made his first great save before Costa’s dismissal, diving low to his right and using a strong hand to repel a fierce low strike from Philippe Coutinho after the Brazilian ran onto a lay-off from Luis Suarez to shoot powerfully from 15 yards.

Plenty more saves followed from Oblak in the second half, and two in particular deserve mention: firstly as he flung himself sharply at Suarez’s feet to keep out a powerful drive, and then a cat-like pounce to his left to claw away a low effort from Messi which seemed destined for the bottom right corner.

SUAREZ AND MESSI DO IT AGAIN

Lionel Messi celebrates

Lionel Messi celebrates

Atletico’s determined resistance – or, to be more precise, Oblak’s – was finally broken by the most predictable of sources: Suarez and Messi. It would take something special to beat Oblak…and the South American strike duo certainly produced it.

With just five minutes remaining, Suarez struck first. Receiving the ball 25 yards from goal, he set up a shot on his right foot and hit it perfectly, arrowing the ball with power and perfect accuracy low and hard into the bottom right corner, hitting the inside of the post on its way in.

Messi duly followed course a minute later, racing from the halfway line and surging into the penalty area, where he withstood a challenge from Jose Maria Gimenez and ignored the attentions of Diego Godin to stroke a passed finish into the corner with ridiculously nonchalant ease.

They were both breathtaking goals, and for the second consecutive game Suarez and Messi rescued Barca with late goals having done exactly the same in Tuesday’s stunning draw at Villarreal.

And the victory also provided them with a timely psychological boost ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final first leg trip to Manchester United…Chris Smalling, watch out.

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Barcelona 2-0 Atletico Madrid: Player ratings as Diego Costa sees red

Andy West 7/04/2019
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Gerard Pique and Diego Costa

Barcelona took a major step towards the title with a 2-0 victory over Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou, moving 11 points clear at the top of the table with seven games remaining.

Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi were the goalscoring heroes while Diego Costa was the villain after getting himself sent off, but how did everyone else fare?

Check out our Atletico player ratings now.

ATLETICO MADRID 4-4-2

Oblak 8. Made a series of saves including fabulous low stops from Philippe Coutinho, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi. Unlucky to be a loser.

Arias 6. Regularly came forward to support the attack before he was sacrificed by Diego Simeone after the red card to Costa.

Gimenez 7. Fierce and committed, kicking and heading everything away but ultimately undone by the brilliance of Messi and Suarez.

Godin 6. In probably his last game at Camp Nou, got away with a bad back pass and struggled with Messi running at him.

Luis 6. Steady if unspectacular before being replaced after an hour as Simeone chased victory with Morata’s introduction.

Koke 6. Did a lot of the dirty work in midfield, unable to exert much impact going forward but tireless off the ball.

Partey 7. Showed skill and control in midfield. Moved to right-back after the dismissal of Costa and did well.

Jan Oblak denies Luis Suarez

Jan Oblak denies Luis Suarez

Rodri 7. Came to the fore after Costa’s red card, doing a great job to close down space and use the ball constructively.

Saul 6. Relatively restrained as he focused on defensive tasks in midfield, finishing up at left-back after Simeone’s rejigs.

Griezmann 6. Jeered by Barca fans but responded with a bright display. Sent an angled shot and a free-kick on target but lacking power.

Costa 5. Passed fit after injury and headed a tough early chance over before being sent off for dissent after half an hour.

SUBSTITUTES 

Correa 6. Introduced as an attacking measure to replace the dismissed Costa, and worked hard without much attacking threat.

Morata 5. A second roll of the dice from Simeone, his movement caused some problems but he lacked bite in the box.

Juanfran 6. A sentimental late introduction from Simeone for a player likely to leave the club in the summer.

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Barcelona 2-0 Atletico Madrid: Player ratings as Catalan giants close in on La Liga title

Andy West 7/04/2019
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Luis Suarez celebrates his opener

Barcelona took a major step towards the title with a 2-0 victory over Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou, moving 11 points clear at the top of the table with seven games remaining.

Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi were the goalscoring heroes while Diego Costa was the villain after getting himself sent off, but how did everyone else fare?

Check out our Barcelona player ratings now.

BARCELONA 4-3-3

Ter Stegen 6. Made a couple of straightforward saves from Antoine Griezmann and had little else to do. Calm in his distribution.

Roberto 7. Preferred to Semedo at full-back and worked well with Rakitic to build play down the right, offering a constant outlet.

Pique 7. Made some important interventions and provided a sense of security after missing the defensively shambolic draw at Villarreal.

Lenglet 7. Took a bash on the face from Costa early on but wasn’t perturbed and produced another no-nonsense performance.

Alba 7. Surged forward to hit the post in the first half and never stopped trying to penetrate Atletico’s backline.

Rakitic 7. Saw plenty of the ball on the right of midfield, helping his team keep their shape and control the action.

Busquets 7. Calm and confident in front of the back four, looking more assured than many of his recent performances.

Arthur 6. Knitted play together with controlled passing but perhaps a little too safe with his distribution. Replaced by Malcom.

Coutinho 6. Flitted in and out down the left. Demanded a great save from Jan Oblak with a low shot and threatened with a header.

Messi 9. Same as always. Brilliant passes to set up Alba and Suarez, forced Oblak into a great save and scored a sublime second.

Lionel Messi celebrates

Lionel Messi celebrates

Suarez 8. Linked up play superbly at times, had a drive well saved before curling home a fantastic opener from 20 yards.

SUBSTITUTES 

Malcom 7. Introduced for Arthur and added a spark down on the right, stretching Atletico’s defence with pacy runs.

Alenya 6. Came on at the left of midfield to replace Coutinho for the final ten minutes but made little impact.

Semedo 6. Replaced Roberto at right-back in the latter stages, few opportunities to impress.

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