ATM XI Oblak; Trippier, Savić, Giménez, Hermoso; Koke, Saúl, Llorente (Costa 73’), Carrasco (Felipe 90’+1); Félix (Lemar 84’), Correa (Kondogbia 84’).
BAR XI Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Lenglet, Piqué (Dest 61’), Alba; Pjanić (Braithwaite 83’), De Jong; Dembélé, Pedri (Coutinho 57’), Messi; Griezmann (Trincão 83’)
Saúl has the first shot on target. Yannick Carrasco holds up and slides the ball to his left — the duo nearly recreating the goal Saúl scored three years ago, but Marc-André Ter Stegen makes the stop. A couple minutes earlier, Ousmane Dembélé sprinted past Carrasco to set up a quick Antoine Griezmann volley, but José Giménez read it well.
Koke gives away a free kick after a tactical takedown of Dembélé, and thankfully Giménez takes care of Messi’s free kick. On the next attack, a Marcos Llorente snapshot kisses the crossbar after Atlético keep possession from a corner. Two good chances early on...
Stopping Dembélé is going to take some doing. He’s been isolated against Carrasco and is winning that battle.
Carrasco’s 14 touches to this point lead Atlético. He’s completed a dribble and made a key pass, too.
Atlético’s attacking approach hasn’t changed much even with less possession, there are still options around the area...but no Luis Suárez to play off. João Félix is seeing two or three Barcelona bodies around him whenever he’s on the ball. Atleti aren’t taking advantage against a slow Barça defense.
The visitors still have just one shot attempt — Griezmann’s in the second minute.
Dembele is finding it more difficult to get around Mario Hermoso. His development at left back has been such that he’s keeping Renan Lodi out of the XI in a huge match.
Saúl is doing a lot of running. In addition to his 95 percent passing accuracy and shot on target, he’s made a tackle and a couple clearances.
Carrasco is off to the races after a throw-in (I think it was Koke who played the ball to him) and is trying to pick out Ángel Correa...but he waits too long. Jordi Alba and Clément Lenglet recover.
Alba now plays a clean ball into the box for Messi, who waits for a pullback for an onrushing teammate. Eventually, he shoots into Jan Oblak’s arms at the near post.
Three minutes added on in the first half...AND THERE’S THE GOAL! Gerard Piqué mishandles the ball, Correa hits a hopeful pass toward Carrasco, into more space than Atlético have had so far. Ter Stegen comes allll the way out, Carrasco ruthlessly nutmegs him, and it’s in the net.
Halftime: Atlético Madrid 1-0 Barcelona (Carrasco 45’+3). Possession 42-58. Shots 4-2.
Even though the second half is just underway, Diego Simeone has a lead with which to work. We have a years-long backlog that shows us how Cholo approaches these situations — proverbially locking the door and hiding the key. Barcelona will continue to push, and Ronald Koeman is about to throw on Philippe Coutinho for Pedri.
Oblak has made a pair of set piece saves — the last one a free header from Lenglet.
Correa has just collided with Piqué, and this looks bad. His leg bent in a way it should not bend. Piqué, crying, walks off gingerly. American Sergiño Dest replaces him.
Miralem Pjanić at the Disco makes a good pass through traffic, and Dembele misses narrowly on 65 minutes. Pjanić then has a go himself two minutes later but misses everything.
As the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Atlético haven’t been under real threat, and Simeone is yet to make any substitutions. That may change soon, as Diego Costa is waiting to make his first appearance since Oct. 17.
Atleti are insisting with the high line. It’s working. Someone in red and white is there to intercept and control just about every Barcelona clearance.
It’s really working. Kieran Trippier sends a cross into the penalty area buzzing beyond unmarked Félix.
Not to spoil the mood, but...though Atlético have conceded only two goals in nearly eight league games, both have come within the final 15 minutes.
Lodi is still nailed to the bench, so Carrasco is functioning now as a wingback. Atlético are being pushed back. Players are starting to get in each others’ way. Clearances aren’t going far enough. Messi wins an 81st minute free kick. It’s deflected. A corner is given. Oblak then makes a diving save from a Griezmann header, who exits on 83 minutes.
Simeone makes his second and third changes. Félix and Correa are swapped for Thomas Lemar and Geoffrey Kondogbia. Not a fan of removing two attacking outlets with minutes left in the match. Barcelona scored 86th and 89th minute goals in this fixture the past two seasons.
Oblak scuffs a clearance. So does Carrasco, as we reach stoppage time. Felipe is on. Messi wins a free kick. Costa clears from an ensuing corner. Oblak has to hoof another one out of danger.
It’s over! Atlético have defeated Barcelona in a league match for the first time since Diego Simeone’s arrival as coach! The domestic unbeaten run moves to 24, and Atleti are joint-top of LaLiga with 20 points from eight games.