Barcelona 2-2 Atletico Madrid: 5 talking points as title hopes slip away for the Blaugrana
- Barcelona squandered their lead twice to draw a crucial game at the Nou Camp.
- Own goal, VAR controversy, three penalties, Lionel Messi's 700th goal: it was a tense evening at Barcelona.
FC Barcelona's title defence could be as good as over as they played out a 2-2 draw against Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou on Tuesday night. Placed second in La Liga, the home team needed a desperate win after dropping points against Celta Vigo last weekend.
A draw or a loss would have meant that archrivals Real Madrid would have stayed at the top of the league with a game in hand, along with a better head-to-head record against the defending champions.
The game, as the scoreline suggests, did not disappoint. The match was filled with action-packed drama with an own goal, penalties, Lionel Messi's 700th goal and since it is La Liga, a VAR controversy.
The match also stood out for its several tactical battles throughout the 90 minutes of the game.
#1 End-to-end action in the first half
This should not be a talking point of the game at all as it is essentially what football is. However, it must have been fairly surprising for fans to see such an open game with so much attacking flair.
For a game that bid a defensive set-up against a team that had been passing square since the restart of the season, the first half flew by with both teams exploiting the flanks.
With Barcelona pushing both their fullbacks in search of a goal, Yannick Carrasco marauded the home team's right side and won the penalty in the 16th minute of the game. On the other side of the pitch, Barcelona had forced an own goal already and kept exploiting an unsure combination of Renan Lodi and Filipe.
With Atletico pressing aggressively, the game was opened wide and both teams exploited the space in front of them.
#2 We need to talk about Setien
Before we delve into Quique Setien, let's back up a bit.
In 2019, Setien got the Barcelona job after Ernesto Valverde's square passing and lack of innovation fell under immense criticism from fans and pundits alike.
If we were to assume that he had the backing of the board after the 4-0 debacle in Liverpool, hell broke loose after Barcelona lost 3-2 to Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup.
After that defeat, the board took cognisance and brought in a coach who was more familiar with the Barcelona playing style. It is quite poetic that even Setien and his Cruyff-esque approach would also be devoured by Diego 'Cholo' Simeone's gritty Atletico Madrid.
The tactical part:
It would not be very wrong for someone to assume that Setien has not been able to implement his set-up at Barcelona. For the last month or so, it has been speculated that the Barcelona players do not trust their manager and his ways. They were also reported to have had bust-ups regarding the same in training sessions- something that Setien has not categorically denied.
If this were to be Setien's last game as a Barcelona manager, there are several takeaways from it that should be touched upon.
Traditionally, Setien's 3-5-2 set up is a high energy system that requires players with young legs to cover a lot of ground during the game.
While he has experimented the same with Barcelona (during the start of the season), for reasons unknown, his current club has not adapted the same.
Tonight, Setien, with his back to the wall, broke out his 3-5-2 with Nelson Semedo and Jordi Alba as wingbacks and the game subsequently lit up.
Apart from Semedo and Alba wreaking havoc in the flanks, the midfield was owned by the young Riqui Puig, who dodged, dribbled and threw off people in utmost calm.
Is the system without flaws? No. But we will check that out later.
#3 €120 million forward not worth starting against his former team?
Antoine Griezmann's horror continues at Barcelona. A big-money signing, who was supposed to be making the difference at the top, now finds himself sitting at the bench.
It is noticeable that the senior Barcelona players are not in the same wavelength as Griezmann, and it shows on the pitch when they do not pass him the ball even when he is at advantageous positions in the attacking third.
For that matter, a 33-year-old Luis Suarez, who has freshly returned from surgery and rehab, gets to play the full 90 minutes as Griezmann looks on.
Given a chance to play for the final four minutes in the extra time, the Frenchman could do nothing but complete an excellent tackle to win back the ball in his own half.
Is this Coutinho all over again?
#4 Diego Costa's nightmare game
An own goal, a missed penalty and a clear chance squandered in the telling moments of the match- Diego Costa had a horrible game, to say the least.
After the ball ricocheted off his thigh into the goal in the 11th minute, Costa got a chance to balance the scales in the 16th minute of the game.
Yannick Carrasco's sublime dribbled earned Atletico a penalty but Costa could not put it away. Thankfully for him though, the spot-kick was taken once again and Saul Niguez did not make any mistake this time around.
Later in the second half, Costa failed to convert from a clean cross in the far post which would have given Atletico a 3-2 lead with very little time remaining. Unfortunately, it just wasn't his day.
#5 Good Semedo, Bad Semedo
Here is a classic example of the Setien flaw. Nelson Semedo, naturally known for his defensive attributes, was sent high up the pitch to crowd Atletico's left flank. He did that going against his nature and executed it superbly well. Having said that, this left defensive holes throughout Barcelona's right flank, which Pique could not manage alone.
This is where Carrasco shined. He took it upon himself to bombard the Barcelona flank with clever runs that earned him both the penalties for the away side. While the penalties are a separate controversy itself, it is this critical Setien flaw that allowed the visitors to get into these kinds of positions.
Three penalties, an own goal and Messi's 700th would not save this game from the fact that it was marred with refereeing inconsistencies and questionable tactics from Setien. With Barcelona's league defence almost in shambles, all eyes would be on the club to see what they pull out of their hat next.Published 01 Jul 2020, 07:33 IST