ATM XI: Jan Oblak, Arias (Correa 35’), Giménex, Godín, Filipe (Morata 58’), Koke, Thomas, Rodri (Juanfran 88’), Saúl, Diego Costa (Red Card 28’), Griezmann
FCB XI: ter Stegen, Roberto (Semedo 84’), Piqué, Lenglet, Alba, Arthur (Malcom 64’), Rakitic, Busquets, Coutinho (Aleñá 80’), Messi, Suárez
In a match that should have been more meaningful than it could ever be, Atlético Madrid fought for pride in Camp Nou against the runaway league leaders Barcelona. In what has become a mix and match eleven, Atléti have put together what should be their strongest lineup, considering the extensive injury list at the club currently. Diego Simeone opted for a more conservative central midfield with Thomas and Rodri, and deploying two central midfielders on the wing in Koke and Saúl. Koke has done well in such positions this season, but Saúl has been in limbo all year, and in such a big game, this was a good chance for him.
The first major chance of the match came in the opening 10 minutes for Atléti as Diego Costa headed just over from a left-sided cross. Barcelona then had a fantastic chance to make it 1-0 on 14’ when Lionel Messi played in Jordi Alba who hit the post one-on-one with Oblak. Atléti survived, just. Luis Suárez had a good chance on 20’ against his fellow Uruguayan Diego Godín, but had his first attempt blocked and the second sail over the bar. Immediately afterward, Antoine Griezmann failed to convert a one-on-one with ter Stegen.
After a rather clumsy foul from Rodri on 22’ Lionel Messi was given a chance from outside the box to punish Atléti, but thankfully his attempt sailed over the bar. On 27’ Jan Oblak had one of his highlight moments with a tremendous save down to his right from Philippe Coutinho. Unfortunately, Diego Costa took it upon himself to get sent off just thirty seconds later, in a great show of leadership. From this point on, Atléti would play distinctly disadvantaged for over one hour.
Diego Simeone then did something unexpected. With the abscense of Costa, Simeone replaced Santiago Arias with Ángel Correa, moving Thomas to right back. This showed that Simeone recognizes the situation in which Atléti finds itself. There is no reason to grind out a 0-0 at Camp Nou, the only possible positive is a win, and this change showed Cholo was at least willing to give it a go. I don’t even want to mention what Diego Godín did in the 39th minute when he inexplicably passed the ball to Luis Suárez, but somehow Barcelona didn’t score.
Atléti would go into the break 0-0, thankfully. Things could have easily been worse, and now Atléti had 15 minutes to adjust to being with just 10 men. Into the second half Lionel Messi looked to open the scoring on 64’ but Jan Oblak got two strong hands behind it and prevented the shot from going in.
Unfortunately, after 84’ Barcelona would break the deadlock, with Suárez scoring to make it 1-0. From that moment, the collapse was on, and Messi made it 2-0 shotly afterwards. If you still thought there was a title race, this should confirm to you that there is not. With the immense talent Barcelona have, going down to ten men away is just asking to be torn apart. Atléti did well to hold out as long as they did.
This Summer is a reckoning for the squad, the club and the manager. Things need to be shifted in order to bring a new era to Atléti, because to many of the current squad members are holdovers from an era long gone. If there is to be a time where Atléti compete for the La Liga title, it will come at the end of a major squad renovation. For the first time, Atlético Madrid are weak, and must change with the times to remain a force in Europe, as they have been for the last half decade.