Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid: 6 Things We Learned
It was the fourth time this season that the two La Liga heavyweights had met, with nothing to split them until this point. Three games, three draws.
Tata Martino's side were looking to make big strides towards their seventh successive Champions League semi-final per Nik Brumsack of Independent.
Would an Atleti side unbeaten in their last six, per WhoScored.com, be able to stop them?
Let's take a look at six things we learned from the game.
Atleti Taking the Game to Barca
It took precisely two minutes and 28 seconds for Barcelona to get the ball out of their half from kick-off.
Atletico Madrid were straight out of the blocks, chasing every ball and harassing every player in Blaugrana.
The pressure exerted forced Jose Manuel Pinto into his first mistake of the evening, kicking out straight to the opposition to pass to David Villa, who was unlucky not to score.
Barca were forced to counter-attack in the first 10 minutes which tells you everything about Diego Simeone's tactics on the night.
Gerard Pique and Diego Costa: Who Will Be the Bigger Miss?
Was it therefore sheer stupidity to place him in the starting XI or a risk worth taking?
After 28 minutes play, Costa was forced off with a hamstring injury that could well rule him out of the return, so you would have to conclude it was the former.
With such reliance across the season on their big front-man, has Simeone scored a real own-goal here?
Gerard Pique fell awkwardly when challenging Costa, and looked uncomfortable as he limped off.
His performances this season alongside Javier Mascherano have drifted between comical and magnificent, but he does remain Barca's first choice centre-back.
Marc Bartra's excellence when called upon is becoming a familiar theme, and again here he showed that he is one for the future. Perhaps even one that is ready to take up a permanent residency in the Barca defence now.
It's arguable therefore that Atleti will feel the loss of their man that bit more than the Blaugrana.
No Separating the Two Again
The fourth meeting between the sides this season and the fourth draw
A magisterial strike from Diego from fully 30 yards, cancelled by Neymar's tidy finish from a first-class Andres Iniesta pass.
The irresistible force against the immovable object.
Barcelona's 90 percent pass success rate from 71 percent possession still wasn't enough to take down the La Liga leaders. Unbeaten away in European competition this season per WhoScored, Atletico continued their excellent record.
Will there be a winner next week?
Magnificent Atletico Defensive Performance
You have to take your hats off to Atletico Madrid.
As a collective unit defensively, they were magnificent throughout, denying Barcelona's attacking trident space at every opportunity.
Seamlessly transferring from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1 and even an unbelievable 4-6-0 during the middle part of the first half, none of the visiting staff looked uncomfortable with a backs-against-the-wall role.
Only during the latter stages did they start to tire and offer the home side a glimmer.
With no Diego Costa there was rarely an out-ball. Could that be something for Barcelona to capitalise on in the second leg?
The Nervousness of Jose Manuel Pinto
Right from the beginning of this game there was a nervousness to Jose Manuel Pinto's game.
In the absence of Victor Valdes, Pinto has been thrust into first-team duty and the custodian has to respond with a high-level of performance.
If his first few touches in this game are anything to go by, we are in for a roller-coaster ride with Pinto between the uprights.
He appeared unable to find the simplest of his targets initially, instead playing the ball straight to the opposition.
And you would have to question his positioning for Atleti's opening goal too.
Yellow Cards Will Hurt Atleti's Challenge
Atletico Madrid's natural game is steeped in the physical elements of the sport, allied to an abundance of skill.
Football played right on the very edge.
It can be magnificent to watch and is often very productive, but with such tactics come the threat of regular punishment.
Six yellow cards, three of which were to their tough-tackling midfielders, could hurt them later in the tournament should they progress.
Will that see a change of tactics from Diego Simeone in the second leg?
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