Barcelona took a huge step in the right direction on Sunday with a 1-0 victory away to Atletico Madrid. Barcelona knows they will need to win big games to secure the LaLiga Santander title in 2022/23.
Ousmane Dembele stood up to be counted and scored the deciding goal inside the first half hour of what turned out to be a pretty tense match with two red cards handed.
The hosts had a total of 20 shots, making it a somewhat atypical night for Atleti where they had a lot of offensive opportunities.
Only five of them, as is worryingly becoming the team’s norm, were successful.
The dilemma surrounding Joao Felix persists, as Diego Simeone has yet to fully decide on his strongest XI.
Los Colchoneros are unable to find a replacement until a team accepts the Portuguese star and his big salary on in the form of a loan agreement, despite the fact that the Argentine coach doesn’t really trust him as a forward in his favored 4-4-2 style.
As a result, Atleti’s team selections continue to be unbalanced, as was evident throughout Los Cules’ visit.
Xavi’s crew is prepared for the challenge
Getting his squad to a place where they could challenge Real Madrid, even though it isn’t expected that they can overthrow their formidable rivals this soon, was one of the obstacles the former Al-Sadd coach faced in 2022–2023.
The victory on Sunday showed that the club is making a lot of effort, but they still lack the necessary skills to rule European football.
Dembele is a prime example of it, having turned around his Barcelona career in just a year and even earned a starting position for France’s World Cup campaign.
In the 22nd minute, he made the difference by scoring the game’s lone goal with a perfectly placed finish.
After many Barcelona probing passes, the Frenchman ultimately got the ball on the right side of the penalty box.
He was able to hit the ball on the first attempt and it glided into the lower corner as he sprinted onto his pass.
With Pedri controlling the game up until that point, it was no surprise that his weaving run led to the goal. It was a goal that had been anticipated.
Before halftime, Marcos Llorente would miss two chances, while Pedri would miss the goal with a long-range shot.
Los Rojiblancos attempted to apply pressure to their opponents in the second half, but the killer instinct just wasn’t there.
Atleti’s starting forward lineup on Sunday included Joao Felix, who the coach doesn’t value, and Griezmann, who has played his greatest football in 2022 as a holding midfielder.
The fact that there were so few shots on goal and how chaotic the game ended spoke to this.
In the opening minute of injury time, there was a non-ball related incident, and sparks flew.
Ferran Torres and Stefan Savic got into a struggle, but Stefan Savic then appeared to grab Ferran Torres by the neck and shove him.
The Montenegrin international was awarded a red card as a result, but Torres received the same punishment for his involvement in the altercation just seconds later.
Following that incident, Atleti gained some momentum as the crowd pushed them on. It nearly resulted in a goal, but Ronald Araujo cleared Griezmann’s effort off the line.
As a result of Real Madrid’s loss against Villarreal on Saturday, Barcelona now leads the standings by three points.