On Wednesday night Atletico Madrid defeated Barcelona 1-0 in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final to progress into the last four of Europe’s elite competition 2-1 on aggregate.
The victory was very much deserved and Barcelona did not have an answer to Atleti’s energy and quality.
Atletico Madrid were outstanding last night and have been for a good while now. I cannot praise Diego Simeone and his players enough for their superb campaign so far. I wrote an article praising Los Rojiblancos after the first leg, so now is the time to look at their opponents.
Atletico Madrid is the epitome of a team that are hard to break down. Boss Diego Simeone has his team well drilled defensively. However, the great Barcelona side of Pep Guardiola nearly always managed to find the answer to the question of how to break down a difficult opponent?
Incisive passing, a moment of individual brilliance from Lionel Messi, Barcelona more often than not seemed to find a way past their opponents. The current team just does not seem to have the same zip and vibrancy, strange considering the current team contains a lot of the same players.
People talked about last season being an end of an era as Bavarian giants Bayern Munich took Barca apart with typical German efficiency. This was true in one sense, as Barcelona’s slip from dominance is a gradual one.
Barca were never going to suffer a dramatic fall from grace, like other dominant European sides have in recent years, but the fact that Tata Martino’s side have failed to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 2007 is confirmation that the team is slightly on the wane.
Next summer will be one of change at Barcelona. Boss Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino is an unhappy man and looks set to leave half way through his two-year deal this summer. The Argentinian could very well leave the Catalan giants empty-handed.
Barcelona are still to face Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey and are of course are still in the race for La Liga. However, he has not been a popular boss in his time at the Nou Camp. He has never really been able to get to grips with what the institution of Barcelona is all about.
Martino attempted to play his own style of play, much to the annoyance of the Barcelona fans. He has attempted to change the style of play back to ‘the Barcelona way’ unfortunately for Tata it has not worked as well as under other bosses.
Martino has just never looked like a Barcelona manager. It may be harsh to suggest, but I think he is out of his depth at the Nou Camp.
The boss may be the biggest change, but there will be major changes elsewhere as Barcelona stalwarts Victor Valdes and Carles Puyol prepare to leave the Nou Camp this summer. Unfortunately Valdes ended his Barca career with a season ending injury and we wish him all the best.
The keeper should still complete a move to mega-rich French club Monaco this summer. It is unclear what lies in Puyol’s future, but he has been a great leader and warrior for the club throughout his career.
These two players need to be replaced, but Barcelona are currently in the midst of a 14-month transfer ban. The Catalan giants are confident that the ban will be overturned on appeal and they will be able to bring in new players this summer.
In truth, they are in real need of fresh blood in the team, especially in defensive areas and have been for a long time. Unfortunately the Catalans have strengthened in other areas of the team in the last few transfer windows.
Brazilian star Neymar arrived at Barcelona with a big price tag and an even bigger reputation. The young Brazilian international has gone from a massive fish in a tiny pond, to a very small fish in an ocean at Barcelona.
Neymar has struggled at times, especially playing in the shadow of the great Lionel Messi. At Santos he was the star who everybody gave the ball to, at Barca he is just a side show to the Argentinian magician.
Neymar is regarded as the world’s next big superstar and it made sense for Barcelona to sign him, an attack with Lionel Messi and Neymar in it made have also sounded good on paper. Unfortunately on grass it just has not worked out.
Neymar has played games this season at times when home-grown star Pedro or even Chilean attacker Alexis Sanchez would have been far better options. Neymar’s first season report must have the words ‘must do better’ written all over it.
The current Barcelona team may be on the decline, but they are far from finished. How they fare next season could very well depend on whether their transfer ban is upheld or not. A new boss will come in and hopefully rejuvenate the team.
Barcelona may not be the winning machine they once were under Pep Guardiola, but to write them off would be very dangerous. They still have a lot of quality within their squad and no doubt they will return to the Champions League next season with a renewed hunger.
Will Barcelona win La Liga this season?
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