Barcelona once again had to rely on the heroics of Lionel Messi in a riveting encounter that saw the Catalans secure a late 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid.
The game was lively right from the beginning, with Atletico Madrid dominating most of the possession in front of their home fans. They looked organised and put an immense amount of pressure on the Barcelona players whenever they had the ball. They also managed to conjure up a lot of chances, notably forcing Marc-Andre ter Stegen to make a couple of excellent saves.
However, with rain pouring down heaving at the Wanda Metropolitano, the Atletico Madrid players eventually got tired. The gaps started to open, which Barcelona utilised with aplomb. As a result, they began to dominate the proceedings throughout the final phase of first-half.
It was pretty much the same story in the second half, except the hosts looked much less threatening going forward. It seemed as if Diego Simeone was content with a point. And while they did try their best to deny Barcelona from finding the opener, a late surge from Lionel Messi, a quick one-two with Luis Suarez and an incredible finish was enough to break the hearts of the home supporters.
Here, at the Hard Tackle, we take a look at how Ernesto Valverde’s men fared in their hard-fought win over Los Rojiblancos.
Marc Andre ter Stegen: 9/10
After impressing in the midweek, ter Stegen continued his superb run of form with yet another commendable display in between the sticks. The German stopped an close-range effort from Mario Hermoso as well as a thumping header from Alvaro Morata in the first half. Wasn’t as busy in the second half as the hosts found it difficult to breach the Barcelona backline.
Sergi Roberto: 8/10
Filling in for the injured Nelson Semedo, Roberto looked a bit disjointed in defence, especially when dealing with the threat of Joao Felix. However, the Spaniard combined with Lionel Messi superbly whenever he got forward and it was one of the reasons why Barcelona managed to hold a firm grip into the game late in the first half.
Gerard Pique: 7.5/10
Had a lot of problems keeping up with Felix in the first-half, notably getting nutmegged once by the Portuguese wonderkid. However, the Spaniard improved as the game progressed and was also unlucky not to score as his thumping header hit the post in the first half.
Clement Lenglet: 8/10
Although it wasn’t the most clinical display from Lenglet, the Frenchman deserves credit for providing immense defensive support to Pique. He made a host of tackles inside the Barcelona half and never really lost sight of his markers. His work-rate was critical in denying the opposition, any sort of space, especially in the second half.
Junior Firpo: 5/10
Firpo’s lack of experience at the highest level of football was evident in his first-half performance. He played a lot of rash passes and was finding it difficult to cope with Angel Correa down the left. Never really improved either as he was barely effective going forward.
Ivan Rakitic: 8/10
Rakitic was clearly overwhelmed by the early pressure of the Atletico players, notably getting dispossessed twice. However, the Croat used his vast experience and put in a composed display in the middle of the park. His ability to make the transitions was critical in breaking Atletico Madrid’s first line of press.
Frenkie de Jong: 8.5/10
Despite the pressure all around, even during the early stages of the game, Frenkie de Jong never really looked uncomfortable. His quick feet and excellent vision allowed him to distribute the ball with ease. The Dutchman definitely looks like a natural heir to Sergio Busquets.
Arthur Melo: 7.5/10
Arthur had a disastrous start to the game. He was, in fact, the weak link of the Barcelona midfield as Atletico Madrid poured players on his whenever he had the ball. But, the Brazilian did improve as the likes of Thomas Partey and Koke began to get tired.
Lionel Messi: 9/10
4 – @FCBarcelona have collected 17 points in #LaLiga thanks to 52 Lionel Messi’s goals the last five minutes. Four of these points have been earned vs Atlético de Madrid, more than any other opponent in the competition. Decisive pic.twitter.com/ObOhFGLGC6
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 2, 2019
Like most of the Barcelona players, Messi did not have the best of starts to the game. The Argentine was barely even involved in the proceedings. But, when the gaps started opening up, it was him, who looked the most lively. His mazy runs down the right flank terrorised the Atletico defenders.
Messi also combined well with Roberto and created numerous scoring opportunities. And finally, he was rewarded for his efforts with a brilliantly executed goal that helped him salvage all three points for Barcelona. The Catalans really are a different side without him.
Luis Suarez: 8/10
Suarez once again showed why he is regarded as one of the best strikers in the world, with an intelligent display in the final third. The Uruguayan wasn’t involved much in the game. But when he did, his quality in the final third, coupled with his telepathic understanding with Messi worked the trick for the visitors.
Not to mention, it was his neat flick that allowed Messi a pocket of space, just outside the penalty area. And the Argentine made full use of that opportunity, striking the ball down the bottom left corner.
Antoine Griezmann: 6/10
Struggled on his return to Wanda Metropolitano. The Frenchman was jeered off by home fans whenever he touched the ball and he looked visibly uncomfortable involving himself in the game for an extended period of time. Moreover, Barcelona’s system failed to make use of Griezmann’s work-rate or his offensive qualities. Someone like Ansu Fati might have done a better job, one would think.
Arturo Vidal: N/A
Replaced the tiring Arthur late in the game in order to inject more energy and enthusiasm into the Barcelona midfield.
Samuel Umtiti: N/A
Umtiti was forced on in the 83rd minute after Pique suffered an injury. But, the Frenchman looked incredibly nervy at the back.