It says a lot about the quality of your club when you are considered to be in crisis mode yet you still find yourself in the domestic cup final and atop your domestic table. Such is life at FC Barcelona this season. There has been much talk about manager Luis Enrique's effectiveness, but the results speak for themselves despite.
This weekend the Catalan giants traveled to the Spanish capital to take on a reeling Atletico Madrid club that finds itself out of trophy contention for the first time in Diego Simeone's tenure as manager of the first team. They definitely brought the drama on their trip, waiting until the closing minutes to take the three points with a 2-1 final score. None other than Lionel Messi rescued the blaugranas with his 20th goal of the La Liga season proving to be the match winner.
Even with the win however Barça still did not look its best against Atelti. Luis Suarez looked a bit lost for much of the game and failed to make his mark, while captain Andres Iniesta also did not exhibit a showing to his normal standard. Iniesta may get a pass though, as this was his first match back from injury after not playing since January. Neymar looked like the best player on the pitch Sunday, though he didn't notch any goals, he did show creativity and was extremely effective at advancing the ball with consistency. The Brazilian was in part responsible for Barça's first goal, firing a shot that Atlético goal keeper Martin Oblak blocked but Rafinha was there to send it home off the rebound.
Defender Diego Godín scored Atlético's only goal, and French star Antoine Griezmann was able able to get off some solid shots, but failed to get any past Marc ter Stegen.
For now Barcelona sits two points ahead of Real Madrid, who are on the road playing Villarreal Sunday. Madrid also still has played one less game than the rest, so there is still potential to pad their lead. Although it is extremely important that Barcelona got the three points this weekend, as Villarreal are sure to test Cristiano Ronaldo and company in their visit.
On the Atlético side, they are falling in danger of losing out on a Champions League spot next season which could have multiple repercussions. If they don't make it into the tournament, they could see Griezmann make an exit in pursuit of a team that will be there.
Photo: Flickr/El Renzo