Barça reached the Champions League after dropping Atlético in a very temperamental match due to the courage of the forwards, the trembling of the defenses and the vulnerability of two goalkeepers that express the fall of both teams in the League. Adama and Alves worked as winter reinforcements and made the difference when they returned to the stadium in 2022. The two changed the face of the team on their return to the Camp Nou. Barça had more passion and football than Atlético. Barça’s optimism contrasted with the depression of the rojiblancos on a feverish afternoon in Barcelona.
Ter Stegen, Alves, Alba, Ronald Araújo, Piqué, Frenkie De Jong, Pedri (Nico González, min. 65), Busquets, Adama Traoré (Aubameyang, min. 60), Gavi (Sergiño Dest, min. 70) and Ferrán Torres
Oblak, Vrsaljko (Wass, min. 45), Savic, Mario Hermoso (Matheus Cunha, min. 54), Giménez, De Paul, Koke (Héctor Herrera, min. 75), Lemar (Reinildo Mandava, min. 54), Carrasco , Luis Suárez and João Félix (Correa, min. 55)
goals 0-1 min. 7: Carrasco. 1-1 min. 9: Alba. 2-1 min. 20: Gavi. 3-1 min. 42: Ronald Araújo. 4-1 min. 48: Alves. 4-2 min. 57: Luis Suárez.
Referee Jesus Gil Manzano
Yellow cards Alba (min. 51), Frenkie De Jong (min. 71), Wass (min. 88) and Héctor Herrera (min. 89)
red cards Alves (min. 68)
Atlético has ceased to be the portrait of Cholo, who failed to win at the Camp Nou, also losing against Xavi. He wandered without pain or glory and also without soul, lacking in character and game, more aware of the rival’s failures than his own, surprisingly fragile, more a spectator than a protagonist, luckily for Barça. The azulgrana regained their self-esteem with a therapeutic goleada and facilitated by the strainer that was Atlético. The ‘rojiblancos’ intimidated the 74,221 spectators more than Barça itself.
The list of forwards has increased to 10 and was reduced to two in the lineup: Adama and Ferran Torres. Xavi preferred to be apparently cautious at a moment of maximum excitement due to Simeone’s challenge and Dembélé’s affront. Both invited the coach to attack without stopping at the Camp Nou. The coach gave up a winger to beat a false midfielder: he conceded to Frenkie de Jong in midfield and placed Gavi at the left end. The once camouflaged a runaway formation of Barça.
The novelty was more on the pitch than on the board because Alves was positioned as a midfielder and Barça closed with three central defenders against a predictable Atlético and also accurate right from the start when Carrasco finished off a center by Luis Suárez from the right. No one had foreseen that Suárez and Carrasco would exchange places against a permeable Barça defense, poorly adjusted and little supported by Ter Stegen. Although they insist on attacking better, Barça does not learn to defend with 4-3-3 or 3-4-3.
Great volley from Alba
The knot of the game is on the wings, vulnerable in their area and unbalanced in the opposite, decisive in the tie: Alba hooked an extraordinary volley, such that it was Van Basten, after Alves’ temperate cross in an action won by Adama, the winner in melee with Koke. The power and skill of the winger disarmed Hermoso and Atlético and emboldened Barça. Adama did not stop overflowing and also put the ball for 2-1. Gavi’s head anticipated Vrsaljko’s.
Simeone had no choice but to correct his plan and mount a defense of five with Carrasco on top of Adama. Atlético needed to improve in contention because in return they came to the Barcelona field from time to time starting with João Félix. Simeone’s boys didn’t know how to finish plays as well as Xavi’s. The azulgrana, more forceful, pressed collectively and processed the game through Pedri’s head. Alves’s right foot was a glove and Adama gave width, depth and strength to Oblak’s despair.
The rojiblancos are defeated even in rejections as was perceived in the 3-1. Alves crossed, Piqué headed the crossbar and Araujo finished off Barça’s comeback. At 38, Alves even scored the fourth goal with a cross shot to end a collective action by Gavi, Pedri and Ferran. The Brazilian was only defeated in the 68th minute after a tackle on Carrasco that cost him his expulsion when Atlético had scored 4-2 after a corner kick culminated by Suárez.
Although the game heated up, the referee lost his mind and the public grew impatient, Atlético did not respond even with the changes of Simeone, reduced by Barcelona. Adama was no longer there, but the newcomer Aubameyang while Nico tempered football in a team that defended in numerical inferiority, more disciplined and concentrated than in previous games, aware that they had a cushion of two goals and not one as they used to with Xavi. Barça did not waver, better than Atlético as fourth in the League.
The rojiblancos play without confidence while the Barcelona players increased their intensity and resources without resorting to Dembélé. Xavi avoided the plebiscite with the Frenchman, he deserved the respect of the squad with his decision and, from the Champions zone, he gains time to defend his project against skeptics like Simeone.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.