Luis Enrique’s Barcelona were held to a 1-1 draw by Atletico Madrid at the Nou Camp, in a tie which saw them give up a 1-0 lead after losing Sergio Busquets and Lionel Messi to injury.
It was a dominant display by Barcelona in the first half, one in which Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and Andres Iniesta dominated the game and ran the show for the home side. Iniesta would later help put Barcelona a goal to the good, after a stunning cross found Ivan Rakitic, who made no mistake from 6 yards out. The second half would be a different story, with Barcelona losing Messi, Busquets and their 1-0 lead, after a stunning Angel Correa goal. Here are 5 talking points from Wednesday’s fixture.
1. Roberto Is Not Right (Back)
The 24-year-old has been starting at right back for Luis Enrique’s side for a while now and he has managed to do a good job in the position previously owned by Dani Alves. But Roberto is not a natural right-back, though he has been known to play there before. He managed to handle the threat of Griezmann and the rest of the Atletico attack well enough, but to keep relying on a player whose original position is that of a central midfielder isn’t the way forward for the Catalan giants. They will never truly replace a player of Dani Alves’s calibre and despite their best efforts over the summer, couldn’t manage to get a replacement. Aleix Vidal has clearly fallen out of favour at the Nou Camp and is unlikely to ever feature again under Luis Enrique, even if he is the only natural right-back in the squad. The 27-year-old is likely to be sold off in the winter, and Barcelona would do well to start shortlisting targets for the January transfer window
2. Atletico’s ‘Angel’
The young Argentine came on in the second half and in a matter of minutes, managed to level the game with a superb strike from 15 yards out. A quick free kick from the right flank was passed on to Fernando Torres, who deftly flicked through the legs to Pique to a lurking Angel Correa, who cut into his favoured right side, took another touch, which forced Mascherano to lose his balance and helplessly watch as the 21-year-old put a low driven shot off the left post past a clueless Ter Stegen.
This isn’t the first time this season where the young forward has come off the bench to score. This goal takes his tally up to 2 goals and 1 assist in 4 appearances for Los Rojiblancos this term. Correa seems to have recovered spectacularly from a heart surgery he underwent 2 years ago. His playing style has led to comparisons being drawn between him and Sergio Aguero and Barcelona were rumoured to have a bid for him rejected this summer, and his performance more than justified Atletico’s decision to keep him. Despite being only 21, he can ease the goal-scoring burden on Antoine Griezmann and Kevin Gameiro and could go on to become a very important player for them this season, even if only from the bench.
3. Illustrious, Ingenious, Iniesta.
He quite simply ran the show. Barcelona’s magnificent first half display was completely orchestrated by the Barcelona captain. He pulled the strings, controlled the tempo of the game, made space for his team mates and made life extremely difficult for Gabi and Koke in the Atleti midfield. He has formed a superb partnership with Ivan Rakitic in the middle of the park and it was Iniesta’s stunning cross that found the head of Rakitic to give the Blaugrana a 1-0 lead. If there was any doubt about whether Enrique would chose to start with the likes of Andre Gomes or Arda Turan, to provide some physicality and energy against the likes of Koke, Saul and Gabi, the 32-year-old showed why he had the complete backing of his manager. He was the architect of almost all of his side’s attacks and this individual performance also created a record, an assist in the La Liga for the 14th consecutive season.
4. Life without Messi and Busquets
After that first half performance, it is very likely that had Barcelona not lost their two most valuable players, they would have gone on to score another and win. But soon after the start of the second half, the champions lost Lionel Messi to a groin injury. This led to Arda Turan being introduced. The Turkish international did a decent job in Barcelona’s attack, but he’s no Lionel Messi. To further add to their woes, Sergio Busquets was also taken off the pitch and Andre Gomes was brought in. Barcelona immediately lost their shape in midfield and Atletico were able to attack easier and scored the equalizing goal.
Barcelona currently sit third on the La Liga standings, three points behind arch rivals Real Madrid and one point behind Sevilla. After the end of the game, it was declared that the Argentine captain would be out for 3 weeks due to his injury, and would lead to him missing games against Sporting Gijon, a Champions League tie against Borussia Monchengladbach and a game against Celta Vigo. The extent of Busquets’ injury is still unknown, but three away trips without the best player in the world and possibly the most important midfielder of their team could prove to be tricky, and these teams should look to make the most of the absence of the influential duo.
5. Best In The World?
Barring the opening day blemish against Alaves, Diego Simeone’s defenders have once again been immense for him this season. Last season, they established themselves as the best defence in Europe and they seemed to have carried on their great form on to this season. Felipe Luis is in the best form of his career and one can be sure that his former club Chelsea must be cursing themselves for letting him go on the cheap.
He along with Diego Godin, Juanfran and Stefan Savic did a brilliant job on the night in keeping Luiz Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi quiet. The center-back pairing of Stefan Savic and Deigo Godin kept Luis Suarez quiet the entire night, so much so that the only kick of substance made by the former Liverpool man was his foul on Felipe Luis. Simeone’s organization of his defence was key to their Champions League and La Liga run last campaign and this season, with a reinforced attacking team, they can continue to be genuine title contenders for the treble.