Barcelona inched closer to successfully retaining their La Liga crown when they beat Atletico Madrid 2-0 at Camp Nou on Saturday night.
It was a frustrating night for the most part for Barcelona, despite the numerical advantage that they held for over two thirds of the game, with Diego Costa being sent off in the 28th minute. But, a resilient Atletico Madrid side defended bravely, with Jan Oblak denying each of the front three that started more than once.
On the other end, whenever the visitors charged forward, they looked threatening, only for Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet to stand firmly. But, the Atletico Madrid resistance finally gave way in the 84th minute as Luis Suarez produced a stunning long range curler that beat Oblak at long last.
A minute later, Barcelona rubbed salt into Los Rojiblancos’ proverbial wound as Lionel Messi rounded off the win. The result meant Barcelona are now 11 points ahead of Atletico Madrid, with the La Liga triumph now perhaps a mere formality. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Ernesto Valverde’s men.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 6/10
Atletico Madrid did threaten Barcelona, but they barely got beyond the backline, meaning ter Stegen had a largely quiet evening. The German was alert the one time he did need to make a save and was otherwise only required to distribute the ball, which he did well.
Sergi Roberto: 6/10
It is not often that Roberto is the worst performer for Barcelona. But, Saturday was not his night as the Spaniard struggled to make an impact in the final third even though the hosts created the bulk of the opportunities. Barely tested at the back.
Gerard Pique: 8/10
Coming into the side in place of Samuel Umtiti, Pique was an instant upgrade and a major reason why Barcelona looked impregnable at the back for the most part. Absolutely nothing went past him on the night, especially in the air, with a headed clearance, in particular, standing out.
Clement Lenglet: 7/10
With Pique by his side, Lenglet looked a much better defender than he did against Villarreal. The French defender, like his partner, was diligent in his duties at the back, with a block on Alvaro Morata in the second half ensuring the game remained goalless. Such a confident player when Pique is his partner.
Jordi Alba: 7/10
A solid performance by Alba, who was constantly a threat down the left flank and would consider himself unlucky after smashing the post in the first half. Barely troubled at the back, with Philippe Coutinho supporting him well.
Ivan Rakitic: 6/10
A weird performance by Rakitic, who was faultless in his defensive duties. On the ball, however, the Croat was not quite at his best, with the weight on some of his passes not being on point. Nevertheless, he was Barcelona’s best midfielder on the night.
Sergio Busquets: 6/10
Busquets, like Rakitic, was nowhere near his best on Saturday, especially while distributing the ball, with some of his passes being wayward. Decent defensively, but the veteran midfielder needs to do better when Barcelona pay Manchester United a visit in the Champions League quarter-finals.
A rare blip for Arthur, who, although he kept things ticking throughout his stint on the pitch, was not enterprising enough to create the openings that Barcelona so desperately needed. Can be expected to do better in the games to come.
Lionel Messi: 8/10
Lionel Messi’s last six games for Barcelona:
⚽️🅰️ vs. Rayo Vallecano
⚽️⚽️🅰️🅰️ vs. Lyon
⚽️⚽️⚽️ vs. Real Betis
⚽️⚽️ vs. Espanyol
⚽️ vs. Villarreal
⚽️ vs. Atletico Madrid
Even when you do everything right, he still can’t be stopped. 😱😱😱 pic.twitter.com/3KMPiLB3O2
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) April 6, 2019
For much of the game, it looked like if Barcelona were to break the deadlock, it would come in some way from Messi. The Barcelona captain nearly created such an opening, when his lobbed ball put Alba through on goal.
Thereafter, Messi came close to scoring multiple times, but had to wait till the 85th minute to finally find the back of the net. The result also meant he became the player with the most number of wins in La Liga history – 335.
Luis Suarez: 7/10
Suarez was not quite at his clinical best for large parts of the game, with his first touch deserting him. But, just when it looked like the game was meandering towards a draw, the Uruguayan striker produced a moment of genius as he finally beat Oblak in the 84th minute.
Philippe Coutinho: 6/10
Chastised for his performances in recent games, Coutinho was much improved on the night, orchestrating play well when given a chance. Also helped out defensively, with a block on Santiago Arias being a standout moment. Faded quite a bit in the second half before being replaced by Carles Alena.
On for Arthur, Malcom provided a burst of energy and looked dangerous early on. But, with Atletico Madrid barely providing an inch, the Brazilian failed to provide a moment of inspiration, almost always taking the easy way out of a back pass. That is something he needs to curb.
Carles Alena: N/A
Alena was given 10 minutes on the pitch, but he was not involved much.
Nelson Semedo: N/A
Barely given any time to make an impact.