Barcelona 1 Atlético Madrid 1: Three Thoughts
The league title in the Spanish first division often comes down to the performances of three supremely talented clubs. Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid are always heavy favourites, and 2016-17 is certainly no different. Wednesday evening’s match at the Camp Nou was a key early encounter for both Barcelona and Atlético, ending in a 1-1 draw.
The league matches between these sides often are what decides the championship, as Barcelona just edged out the two Madrid clubs last term. Current leaders, Real Madrid, dropped points for the first time this season against Villarreal earlier in the day, giving both sides an opportunity to gain significant ground in the standings.
Barcelona 1 Atlético Madrid 1: Three thoughts
After a beautiful cross from Andres Iniesta set up Ivan Rakitic’s goal to give the hosts a 1-0 lead at halftime, manager Diego Simeone saw his side respond well and find the equaliser through Angel Correa in the 61st minute.
A physical encounter in the second half keeps Real Madrid alone atop the La Liga standings heading into the weekend.
Injury concerns for Barcelona
Within a span of ten minutes in the second half, Barcelona and manager Luis Enrique lost two key players to injury that ultimately lead to the match ending in a draw.
Sergio Busquets (leg) and Lionel Messi (groin) were both subbed off and the match took a major turn. Messi had been linking up well with Neymar and Luis Suarez in the first half and created several scoring opportunities.
Atletico Madrid’s defence had a difficult time early on containing the Barcelona attack, but saw the pressure ease when Messi and Busquets went down. Their return will be important for Barcelona’s next league match Saturday at Sporting Gijon.
Barcelona’s midfield is as important as ever
While their front three gain much of the attention, Barcelona’s midfield within their 4-3-3 formation is just as crucial to their success as Messi, Suarez and Neymar.
Iniesta and Rakitic turned in fine performances, combining for the first half goal and controlling much of the contest in the middle. Both players tracked back for defensive work often and their accurate passing helped to open up the attack pushing forward.
After Busquets was subbed off due to injury, the central midfield was not up to the same level of play. Atlético and their front line began to pressure Barcelona more and more, especially from forward Antoine Griezmann up the right flank.
The front three may score the goals, but Barcelona’s midfield is a foundation for success.
The determination of Atlético
Atlético Madrid and Diego Simeone simply do not back down. After going down 1-0 just before half-time, Atleti turned up the pace and physicality of their play to throw off Barcelona’s rhythm.
A shrewdly-taken quick free-kick and a slip from Barcelona centre-back Javier Mascherano resulted in Correa springing free and grabbing the equaliser just under the reach of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
While Diego Simeone has still not found his first league win at the Nou Camp, he and Atlético once again reminded the Catalan side that they have the ability to battle with any club on the planet.