- Arthiac Team
FC Barcelona took the trip to the red side of Madrid as they took on Atletico Madrid at the newly built Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
It was a must-win game for the visitors to stay in the hunt for a top-4 finish. The least the Catalan side could do was to get a point out of this game which would boost them psychologically to carry on for the remainder of the season.
Atletico Madrid began the game with their most usual formation of 5-3-2 against the big boys with Llorente and Carrasco down the sides as wing-backs. Rodrigo De Paul and Thomas Lemar made the cut into the starting XI, with the talented Portuguese, Joao Felix, playing alongside Luis Suarez.
Barcelona started the game with Mingueza at right back and academy players Nico and Gavi in midfield and on the right wing, respectively. They certainly needed creativity and Coutinho was also thrown into the mix as Ronald Koeman was seen watching from the stands after receiving his red card in the game away to Cadiz.
Both sides got off on the right foot as they looked to take an early lead by pressing high up and generating a route to goal, but it was the Colchoneros who were the first to get a shot on goal through Thomas Lemar. It seemed like Atletico were just warming up to their task on Saturday night.
However, Barcelona looked to find a way and carried on with their brand of football, but the Colchoneros didn't sit back in the opening exchanges of the game as they looked to take the game on to the visitors as Joao Felix had a go at the goal through a well worked build up play linking with his French teammate, Lemar.
As always, Atletico are a side who are defensively organised and it takes a lot of patience, effort and skill to break them down as they defend as a unit for large sections of the game when they're at it and Barcelona did find it tough to break loose.
The Catalan side worked their way past a number of red-and-white bodies in midfield, but when it mattered most, they failed to get things right in the final third.
Barcelona were doing well on the ball as they continued to dominate the game against Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid.
However, Thomas Lemar opened up the scoreline as he just rifled the ball on to the top right corner of the goal post assisted by Luis Suarez. The Frenchman didn't waste any time as he set his sights on target and pulled the trigger really well.
That goal was inspired by the movement of the Portuguese record signing, Joao Felix, as his creative movement dragged a few defenders onto him as he left them behind his trail.
That goal saw Gerard Pique and Sergi Busquets exchange a heated verbal battle between both of them as they disagreed with each other for Lemar's goal. Memphis Depay was also seen gruelling at the sight of that goal.
Coutinho had an opportunity to level the scoreline, but his effort went past Jan Oblak as the Brazilian lacked precision in his attempt at goal.
Things were not going swiftly for FC Barcelona after the goal, as Luis Suarez had a really good opportunity to make it two for the hosts, but the Uruguayan striker fired it wide.
However, Barca kept pushing forward for the equaliser as Depay nearly found Frankie De Jong whose outstretched feet could not make contact with the ball.
Yet again, Barcelona's defensive line was just breached open by the fantastic 3 by the Colchoneros in the first half as the movement on and off the ball from Thomas Lemar and Joao Felix unlocked the Catalan defensive set-up.
Lemar broke loose, chipped the ball over Gerard Pique where Suarez kept his run in check as the ball arrived at him, and much to the embarrassment of the visitors, Suarez had all the time in the world to find the back of the net and he certainly did without a shadow of a doubt!
Ronald Koeman was gutted by the sight of that goal, which saw his side being bullied by the Colchoneros.
It just didn't look positive for Barcelona as they kept falling apart as they did not have an answer to salvage themselves from the brunt they would face from the media.
The first half of the game was a good example of how both sides were going for the win which resulted in open chances for both sides in both boxes, but the difference was that Atletico were much quicker and clinical when the opportunity came by.
The second half began with Sergi Roberto coming on for the Catalan side and England's Kieran Trippier coming on for the hosts.
That Atletico Madrid change was not good news for Koeman and his boys as that change didn't mean that Simeone didn't want to hang on to that lead. He wanted to build on it and make a big statement against their competitors.
It was a physical affair in the opening exchanges of the second half as Barcelona struggled to find a solution to the flat defensive line of the hosts.
Atletico were patient and waited for an opportunity to break on the counter, as Diego Simeone kept insisting on sticking together as a side.
The Colchoneros captain, Koke, made a defensive error which saw Gavi take advantage as he switched the ball over to Coutinho on the right wing as he found himself clear on goal, but the gigantic figure of Jan Oblak must have cast a shadow of doubt in the Brazilian's head as the Slovenian goalkeeper kept Coutinho and Barcelona at bay.
Even though Atletico were sitting back and defending, the hosts found themselves one on one with Ter Stegen on multiple occasions.
Ansu Fati was introduced to the scene, and his arrival on the green pastures gave Barcelona a new lease on life in the final third.His movement in between the Colchoneros defensive lines cast a few doubts over Simeone's defensive set up.
However, Atletico Madrid kept knocking on Barcelona's door only when they were on the break. Simeone had a defensive set up of 5-3-2 to cut down on the wide play that Barcelona were depending on to create a few chances, but the men in red and white had it all under control for huge chunks in the second half.
Well, on television, you may have not heard the crowd much, but Diego Simone went bananas asking the crowd to chant and raise the voice with about 10 minutes left on the clock. They certainly chanted and created a historic atmosphere at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Although there were events on the field, there was just nothing happening for Ronald Koeman's boys as they couldn't create any clear-cut opportunities, even with defenders Pique and Araujo, as well as the striker, Luuk De Jong, unable to make a difference.
Atletico Madrid have taken all 3 points from the fixture as they have climbed up to second in La Liga with 17 points on board after playing a game more than the leaders, Real Madrid, who are on the road to Espanyol.
Barcelona, Well, they are in ninth place on the table after 7 games played so far this season, but that's not the territory that Barcelona are used to being in.
Analysing both sides
The Portuguese youngster, Joao Felix was the brightest spark for Atletico Madrid on Saturday night at the Wanda Metropolitano as his performance was the best we have seen as a Colchoneros player as he pulled the strings in midfield and his deliveries to break the scattered defensive line onto Suarez and Lemar were just top notch.
He's always been regarded as one of Europe's top talents alongside Mbappe and Haaland. He's got a lot of potential and talent within him that it's got to a stage in his career where we have still not been able to see that talent blossom into life at Atletico.
He just needs that belief and freedom to express himself on the field, but we know that he has a lot more to give in the red and white jersey of Madrid.
He definitely needed that performance on his back to show Simeone why he rightfully deserves a place in the starting XI on a weekly basis. Although, we still feel that he needs to go the extra mile to cement his place in the starting XI regularly.
The Extra Mile? - It's the hard yards which Felix has to make where he has to show a lot more defensive commitment which Simeone wants from his players throughout the game and probably even more goals and assists to his name whenever the opportunity comes by to be on the field.
Thomas Lemar did extremely well to gain the added trust of his head coach by scoring a sensational goal with the only opportunity he had during the game. That goes to show that these players put in the hard yards on the training ground to capitalise whenever the opportunity comes by.
Luis Suarez, as always, has been reliable and dependent, as he has been throughout his career. The defenders were also in the game as their concentration levels didn't drop throughout the game as they kept Barcelona at bay.
This performance from Atletico Madrid answered a lot of questions about themselves. What a performance from last season's Champions.
Saturday night's performance against FC Barcelona was huge for the players, coach and the fans as it settled the nerves in and around the Wanda Metropolitano regarding the doubts that cast over if Atletico could go all the way and be La Liga Champions once again.
Earlier in the season, this Colchoneros side were vulnerable at the back, but on a big game day, when it mattered the most, they kept a clean sheet. There were doubts about whether they could create chances and be a little bit more creative. Well, Felix, Suarez and Lemar answered those questions. Hopefully, it cleared those doubts for the time being.
Yes, it's Barcelona. Yes, it's a Barcelona side that is not at their best as they're struggling in almost every competition they have played in so far, but it's still a Barcelona side that has immense quality in their attack. They've got individual brilliance in their side that could turn games into their favour, but the red and white boys of Madrid kept Barca quiet.
Without a doubt, Ronald Araujo is probably Barcelona's best player so far at the start of the La Liga campaign as he has been at the top of his game since the season began.
However, there was one moment in the game in the first when Joao Felix was one on one with the Uruguayan defender and the Portuguese cut inside on his right, took the ball outside to his left and that sizzling movement on the ball from Felix just rattled Barcelona's best player or arguably their best defender.
That was when you just knew that Felix could be on top of the Uruguayan defender and that was how Atletico were attacking well by pushing bodies up front.
With Felix on their side, it just makes this Atletico side much more dangerous and threatening when they are on the attack. Being dangerous is one thing, but being threatening is a whole different aspect of a game that could make the difference on any given day. Let your opponent know that if you sniff an opportunity at goal, you will capitalise on it.
Felix is one of those guys on this Atletico side that can create opportunities for his teammates as well as himself, which allows Suarez, Lemar, Griezmann, and Correa to thrive up front, including Carrasco.
Barcelona? A whole new Mess!
Well, I hope you read that heading right. It's just chaos in the dressing room at FC Barcelona. They look like they're just another side in La Liga who are out there competing to finish higher up the table by trying to secure as many wins as they possibly can, let alone challenging for the title.
Their defensive line was just disorganised, even with the likes of Pique, Araujo, and Mingueza in the starting XI.
Atletico Madrid were able to break loose and slice up the Catalan defensive set up with a few key, quick and creative passes down the edges of the 18-yard box.
Felix was key as he kept running in between the lines and created spaces for Suarez and Lemar to take on Ter Stegen in between the posts as Felix dragged a few Barca defenders along with him.
It's just a Barcelona side that we have to accept as they have hit a huge low this season. Even though it's their first loss of the 2021-22 La Liga campaign, their performances just go to show that they might be in for a torrid time this season in all competitions.
They are edging closer to not qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League, and they are probably even getting closer to not playing Champions League football for the next season.
It has to be said that Barcelona have been quite lucky and they have to be grateful for that.
Los Leones were completely dominant in the game against Athletic Bilbao at San Mames, while Barcelona was feeding off scraps, and it is difficult to believe that they only scored once in that match.Memphis Depay trashed one past the keeper as both sides earned a point out of that game.
However, it just shows that irrespective of where the La Liga standings may show that Barcelona are in the table, things are much worse at the heart of this Barcelona side.
They are a side with talent and brilliance, but they don't play as a team. Their next few fixtures in all competitions are against Valencia, Dynamo Kyiv and Real Madrid.
You could say that all those fixtures are going to be tough with Barcelona clearly struggling this season.
There seems to be no cohesion between the players, let alone team spirit.
Gerard Pique openly confessed in a post-match interview that, as he quoted:
"We started well, we went after them, we were brave, then they got on top. They scored two goals from very little and from then on, we could've spent three hours and not scored a goal."
He continued expressing his feelings about the situation at the club, stating:
"The issue is difficult. It's complicated. We are suffering, I have to be honest."
Player Ratings: Atletico Madrid
Jan Oblak: 8/10 - The Slovenian goalkeeper was rarely troubled during the whole game as it felt like he was on the training ground receiving a few long-range shots and aerial deliveries which he dealt with comfortably.
He was tested just once when Philippe Coutinho was through on goal, but the Colchoneros keeper came out big and cast doubt over the Brazilian as Oblak brought out a tame shot from Coutinho which he saved around the 60th minute mark.
Savic: 8/10 - The defender just kept doing the dirty work even when Barca were setting their authority in the opening 20 minutes of the game.
He was cool, calm and collective when tested, reading the game really well.
Gimenez: 8.5/10 - The Uruguayan was yet another influential figure for Diego Simeone's side as he remained strong and compact throughout the game.
He registered 9 clearances in the game. It must be said, he was a tough nut to crack.
Hermoso: 5.5/10 - He was the weak link in the defensive line for Atletico as he was caught out on multiple occasions making rusty decisions on and off the ball. He had a pretty poor game.
Marcos Llorente: 7/10 - If there is one thing we know about this Spaniard is that he will run his legs out for you on the field.
There were situations on the pitch where the cause must have been lost, but Llorente kept the play alive from stretching out for the hosts sprinting up and down the lines.
Rodrigo De Paul: 6.5/10 - The Argentinian kept things simple and less complicated. He looked really exhausted at half time and was eventually taken off.
Koke: 7/10 - He worked tirelessly to cover the ground and spaces where Barcelona were looking to exploit. Made 5 ball recoveries and kept things flowing at the heart of the Atletico midfield.
Lemar: 9/10 - He was an influential figure as he held one end of the strings that his Portuguese strike partner had pulled.
He was smart and used his pace and physical attributes to test Barcelona's back line.
He had a couple of shots on goal, but in the 23rd minute, he gave Ter Stegen no chance to stop the ball from finding the back of the net. A really good performance from the Frenchman.
Carrasco: 5.5/10 - A very quiet night for the Belgians. He failed to make any impact in the final third.
Joao Felix: 9/10 - That performance was just a good example of the talent and future potential that Atletico have invested in.
He was in a league of his own when he had the ball at his feet, with fantastic first and second touches on the ball to set up the opening goal.
He was certainly the creative spark and source of both the goals for Atletico Madrid.
Suarez: 8/10 - Linked up really well with Felix and Lemar ultimately getting a goal and an assist in the game.
He was extremely crucial in ensuring that Atletico got over the line by scoring the second goal which calmed the nerves inside the Wanda Metropolitano.