Atletico Madrid announced themselves as genuine title contenders earlier today with a crucial victory against Barcelona that sees Diego Simeone's team move to within touching distance of the top of the La Liga table. Barcelona struggled to break through Atletico Madrid's rigid lines and their underwhelming performance handed Simeone his first La Liga victory against the Catalans.
Atletico Madrid have now extended their unbeaten run in La Liga to 24 matches and will see this season as an excellent opportunity to win the title. Barcelona now have only 11 points from eight games and have largely failed to turn their fortunes around under Ronald Koeman.
Atletico Madrid stun Barcelona to extend unbeaten run
Barcelona and Atletico Madrid exchanged intriguing bouts of possession in the opening stages of the game as Antoine Griezmann and Saul Niguez attempted to open the scoring at either end of the pitch. Atletico Madrid were marginally the better team in the first half-hour and nearly opened the scoring after Marcos Llorente struck the upright after an excellent run into Barcelona's penalty area.
Barcelona did grow into the game on a few occasions with Frenkie de Jong and Lionel Messi pulling the strings in the midfield. The Barcelona captain had an excellent chance to open the scoring for the Catalans but failed to beat Jan Oblak from a tight angle.
The first half was set to end in a 0-0 stalemate before an inexplicable decision from Marc-Andre ter Stegen presented Atletico Madrid winger Yannick Carrasco with an open goal. The Belgian frontman curved his strike into the net to stun Barcelona at the stroke of half-time.
Atletico Madrid started the second half in excellent fashion and held the ball against a Barcelona side that was struggling to create chances. Clement Lenglet nearly scored for the Catalans after getting his head to an excellent Lionel Messi cross but directed his header straight to Jan Oblak.
Barcelona were poor with their forward passing and were far too predictable in the final third. Atletico Madrid were easily able to thwart the Catalan midfield and Simeone's exceptional tactical acumen came to the fore as Barcelona slumped to yet another expensive defeat.
Atletico Madrid Player Ratings
Jan Oblak - 7.5/10
Jan Oblak is likely to end his career as an Atletico Madrid legend. The Slovenian goalkeeper was a rock between the sticks for the home side and his excellent positioning skills denied Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann throughout the game.
Jose Gimenez - 7/10
Jose Gimenez was given the unenviable task of keeping Lionel Messi quiet and was largely able to meet his manager's expectations. The Uruguayan centre-back organised his back-line and put in a mature performance against Barcelona.
Stefan Savic - 7.5/10
Stefan Savic was largely understated with his performance tonight but was one of the major driving forces behind Atletico Madrid's clean sheet against Barcelona. The defender did not put a foot wrong and was composed against a strong Catalan unit.
Mario Hermoso - 7/10
Mario Hermoso had a difficult start to the game against Ousmane Dembele but recovered brilliantly as the first half progressed. The left-back used his strength to excellent effect and made several crucial blocks against Barcelona.
Kieran Trippier - 7/10
Kieran Trippier was Atletico Madrid's attacking outlet on the right flank and exploited Jordi Alba's movement with consummate ease. The English defender nearly bagged an assist on a few occasions and had one of his best games in an Atletico Madrid shirt.
Saul Niguez - 7.5/10
Saul Niguez is growing into one of Diego Simeone's most trusted commanders and was a leader on the pitch against Barcelona. The Spanish midfielder nearly scored from a long-range effort in the first half and had a good game.
Koke - 7/10
Koke was a highly effective presence in Atletico Madrid's midfield and gave Barcelona a difficult time with his work-rate. The midfielder has built an excellent understanding with Saul Niguez and the duo combined to choke the Catalans' passing lines.
Yannick Carrasco - 7.5/10
Yannick Carrasco thoroughly enjoyed his return to the Atletico Madrid starting eleven and was a constant threat on the left flank. The Atletico Madrid forward scored the only goal of the game with an excellent piece of skill and proved his mettle against Barcelona.
Marcos Llorente - 7/10
Marcos Llorente had a positive outing on the right flank and consistently pushed up the pitch to exploit the space vacated by Barcelona's Jordi Alba. The Spaniard did create his fair share of chances and nearly scored in the first half with a shot and grazed the crossbar.
Angel Correa - 6.5/10
Angel Correa had a relatively quiet night compared to his teammates but his work-rate often won possession for Atletico Madrid. The Argentine forward did create a few chances for his fellow strikers and will be happy with his performance.
Joao Felix - 8/10
Joao Felix may not have found the back of the net tonight but was the beating heart of Atletico Madrid's forward line. The Portuguese superstar was exceptional with his transitions and gave a Sergi Roberto and Gerard Pique a torrid time throughout the game.
Diego Costa - 6.5/10
Diego Costa was brought on to hold the ball up in the final third and the experienced striker played his role to perfection. Costa was a nuisance in the second half and also created a few openings towards the end of the game.
Thomas Lemar - 6/10
Thomas Lemar replaced the prodigious Joao Felix in the final minutes of the game and played a role in Atletico Madrid's defensive set-up.
Geoffrey Kondogbia - 6.5/10
Geoffrey Kondogbia was a part of Atletico Madrid's defensive reorganisation in the second half and won the ball back for his side on a few occasions.
Felipe - 6/10
Felipe was introduced in stoppage-time and did not spend enough time on the pitch to make a discernible impact.