In what was a top of the table clash between FC Barcelona and Atlético Madrid at the Camp Nou on Matchday 22nd, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez helped Barca overcome 9 men Atléti 2-1 and thus move 3 points clear at the top. It was a feisty affair and the match was characterized by rash defending, great team plays and 3 excellent goals. Now let us have a look at some of the talking points of the match-
1) Dani Alves- For someone who was expected to be on the decline, Dani Alves continues to amaze us. He was expected to leave the club in the summer and move to PSG to join compatriots Thiago Silva and David Luiz. Instead he chose to stay, fight it out with Sergi Roberto and Aleix Vidal and still be the number one choice for Luis Enrique. And this weekend he gave the 99th assist of his career, very similar to the one against Real Madrid last season. He now has more assists than the legendary Zinedine Zidane and equal to the maestro Xavi Hernandez. Aptly called the greatest right-back of this generation.
2) Carrasco has a bright future- Antoine Griezmann was missing for the entirety of the match except that acrobatic shot which was saved by a brilliant Claudio Bravo. Also with two players being showed a red card during the match, it was expected of Madrid to defend with the remaining men. Yet they did manage to attack. And Yannick Carrasco led from the front. The young Belgian winger dribbled past Barca defenders on a number of occasions but was led down by team-mates who failed to take up their chances. Carrasco, who has been showing us glimpses of his potential is definitely one of the players to look up to for the future.
3) Messi delivering the goods- This season has been slightly off for Messi or so it seems. Out for 8 weeks due to an injury, he naturally trails the other goal scorers in the league. It is also due to the fact that his favoured position as of now seems to be the middle of the park setting up goals for his team mates. But he has also been steadily climbing up the goal charts scoring at crucial moments. Against Atléti, Messi has been at his absolute best recently. And he didn’t disappoint this time either with his beautiful goal.
4) Atléti’s defense is the real deal but they need o calm down – Atlético Madrid has the best defensive record in the league. It’s centre-back pairing of Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez have built up an impressive partnership at the back ably supported by Oblak. Teams have found it very hard to score against them and even with just 9 men on the pitch, Barca found it quite hard to break them down and had to settle for a 2-1 win. The next time, it would be a better idea to play with calm and composure and let the goals do the talking. For large parts of the match they were better in attack and may have had a point or three in their kitty if not for the rash challenges. That tackle by Felipe Luis may have ended Lionel Mess’s career and needs to be punished.
5) Barca seem to be getting their job done- Barcelona have struggled this season when playing tough teams yet they have come out on top on most occasions. After going a goal down yet again, Messi and Suarez’s genius ensured full points for the Catalan outfit. Big matches shape up the credibility of the big players. Moments like these define a season and Barca are right on track to repeat the heroics of the 2015-16 season. Against the current top 4 teams, Barca have played four matches and won all four of them with 11 goals scored and just 2 goals conceded. These are just the hallmarks of a champion.
With 51 points in their bag and a game in hand, Barca are in the driver’s seat and firm favourites to lift the Liga title. Atléti and Real Madrid are on 48 and 47 points respectively and will hope Barca slip to enable them to make a push for the title. With 16 games to go, anything may happen. With important matches lined up for the month of February, this is going to be crucial to decide who are eventually crowned Spanish Champions.