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Of Barça’s remaining Liga fixtures, by far the most worrying was this one. Atlético Madrid hadn’t lost for three and a half months and for 13 games, and were doing it playing football to be feared.
The visiting side certainly showed plenty of signs of their quality, but it wasn’t enough to stop a Barcelona side that scraped through with a 1-0 win for the tenth time this season. Again there was trouble producing goals, but that rarely matters with a defence as solid as this one. That's an amazing 23 clean sheets this season, already enough to match the club record with eight games still to play!
The pressure was on after Real Madrid had beaten Celta 2-0 the day before, but the gap on the all-white remains at 11 points. And especially now that this game is out of the way, Barça are better poised than ever to be crowned Liga champions, and possibly with games in hand.
The only goal of the game came right before half-time. Although Barça had been struggling to create chances until then and hadn’t any shots on target, when the goal came it was made too look so simple.
A lovely piece of control from Raphinha in the build-up, and Ferran Torres was running into space on the edge of the area. The latter had time to stop, think and pick his spot before delivering a perfectly executed strike to put the Catalans a goal to the good.
The best chances before that had both fallen to Antoine Griezmann. Still seeking his first goal at Spotify Camp Nou (for a visiting team), he struck the bar in the very first minute and also brought out a stunning save from Ter Stegen.
After that, a second goal from Barça always looked a more likely prospect than an equaliser for the red-and-whites.
The return of Frenkie de Jong from injury was already showing in the first half, and when Pedri also marked his comeback in the second there was an even fresher look to Barça’s midfield.
That duo helped make sure that Jan Oblak was by far the busier of the two goalkeepers, and much as the Slovenian was in inspired form, Barça really should have had him beaten on more than a couple of occasions.
Gavi will feel he could have done better with his chance, it is almost inexplicable how Raphinha failed to convert a gift and Lewandowski will also be furious that he didn’t get on the scoresheet.
Chances had gone begging, and Barça could have been punished for it as Atlético woke up in the final minutes and started driving forward in search of something of their own.
But Barça have been brilliant and neutralising opponents this season and this game was no exception. Not one of the series of half-chances was anything of major concern to the 80,965 souls in the stadium, who were already celebrating the Sant Jordi holiday in Catalonia and now had something else to celebrate.
A win that has moved the blaugrana even closer to the Liga title.
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