Atlético keep their positive run and are a firm candidate to win LaLiga. They must fight for the title, and even more after beating Barça, the first time Cholo gets the victory against them in LaLiga, thanks to a goal by Carrasco. They lead the table along with Real Sociedad but Atlético still have two pending games and are already 9 points above Barcelona. Their season looks exciting.
The new Atlético:
Atlético are showing their highest level ever since Cholo became their coach. They dominate the games, have the ball possession, build forward, break lines… They look a different team. The Argentinian coach has had a mind-change and has taken a step forward because he knows that he has top quality players to carry out an attractive football. They are not the ones who would look to make the most out of a scoring chance and then fall back in order to secure their short lead. Now they want more and decide their destination by leading the games. And it is going well for them s far.
Koke and Saúl are performing brilliantly and distribute the game from the middle. Llorente is a hungry animal on the wing and gets over all hiss rivals thanks to his power and speed. Carrasco and Correa dribble from the other side. And Joao Félix is the one who shines the path. The Portuguese goes down to build and leves to quality details each time he gets in contact with the ball. Current leader and franchise player for the future.
Carrasco left to China in February 2018. Anyone would though that that decision was going to be a synonym of an early retirement. However, the Belgian came back unexpectedly, but now he is a new player. Cholo ended up sick of him in his first phase at Atlético because Carrasco would not work defensively, and that is a must-do task for anyone who wants to succeed with Cholo s their coach (think about Lemar or Lodi´s cases, the last one has lost his spot due to the fact that he is unable to defend properly).
Now Carrasco is a key player forward and he works to death defensively. Cholo accepts their new style, but he does not stop protecting themselves backwards. The Argentinian went out on his classic 4-4-2 but with a new aspect on their system: Carrasco was positioned as a second left-back in front of Mario Hermoso when Barça had the ball so the Spanish could become a third central defender in order to have one more player on Messi-Griezmann´s duo and strengthen the wing where Dembélé would try to dribble all the time. The plan worked out perfectly for Atlético because Barça barely created danger.
And if that was not enough, the Belgian was the one who scored the winning goal: Bad touch from Piqué in the midfield, steal and run towards the goal by Carrasco, Ter Stegen goes out on him to half their side incomprehensibly and Carrasco megs him and takes aa shot that goes in nicely. Tough punch for Barça right before the break, and they couldn´t get over it.
Koeman´s Barca keep going down:
Koeman´s team can´t find fluency on their game because they do not dominate the games and even worse, Messi is totally missing. The double midfield is not working out because de Jong and Pjanic are always surpassed whenever the opponent have more players in the middle. There is a clear lack of balance. Dembélé always looks for the dribble and he gets over most of the time, but he usually makes the wrong choices when assisting. And of course, Girezmann keeps being unnoticed and no one expects him anymore.
No doubt that their biggest worry must be Messi´s lack of motivation, as anyone can tell that he is not comfortable on the pitch. He does not go down to receive the ball, he barely gets in contact with it, he does not link with his teammates and he does not dribble his rivals either. He is not decisive in the games anymore, and that is a fact. My doubt is if this is just an age matter or mindset ( he does not want to be at Barça), but right now Barça have lost their only hope to dream of winning something.
Barça lose Piqué and do not have any defenders:
The worse news from the game was Piqué´s knee injury, which seems that will not be as serious as it looked in the live action. Correa smashed with his knee when he was falling down and Piqué left the pitch very worried. Replay made us to presage the worse, but it looks like it will end up being a knee sprain, which will keep him out for between 6-8 weeks.
Barça lose not only their best defender, but almost the only one they have, because Araujo is the only one on the bench, apart from de Jong, who usually takes over when needed. Only two central defenders for a full season of a team that wants to fight for titles and that are on three different tournaments. An absurdity inherited by Bartomeu´s Board of Directors poor management.