Javier Mascherano surveys the field during FC Barcelona's 2–1 victory over second-place Atlético de Madrid. / VICTOR SALGADO - FCB

FC Barcelona’s Javier Mascherano has a fitting sobriquet. The Argentinian is known as El Jefecito or, in English, “The Little Chief.”

Mascherano may look unimposing at just over 5’8”, but out on the pitch he plays like a man much bigger than that. In Saturday afternoon’s 2–1 victory over second-place Atlético Madrid, the defensive midfielder reprised his double role as defensive buttress and midfield liaison, valiantly marshalling FC Barcelona away from danger and into attack mode throughout the game.

But for all his contributions — including a key pass that led to Lionel Messi’s game-tying goal in the 30th minute — Mascherano, like a true leader, remained stoic after the game.

“We’re happy with the result,” he said. It was a tough game, as they always are against Atlético. It reinforces us. It was important to get three more points and put some distance between us and them.”

Nevertheless, Mascherano urged caution. “There’s a long way to go still,” he said. “It’s always important to beat direct rivals. We did our jobs, but we also have to keep doing it.”

Mascherano also broke down the game tactically. “The second half was very slow,” he said. “We couldn’t get out of our end in the first ten minutes of the game, but after they scored we reacted by moving our lines up the field and we were able to control the game until the second goal came.”

“They made it very tough to get deep in the second half,” Mascherano continued.  “They kept bringing the ball back into their own end and we were coming off a big effort in Bilbao. Playing every three days isn’t easy.”

Defensively, “We didn’t want to take any risks, although there is always some risk because of their ability on set pieces.”

When he was asked about the coming Copa del Rey tie with Valencia, Mascherano was blunt. “We could use some rest before hosting Valencia,” he said.

Bravo speaks

Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo also spoke to the media after the game. Here are the highlights of what he had to say:

“We’re in good shape in all competitions, but there’s a long way to go.”

“It was a tough game. We know how good they are and how they play.”

“They’ve been coming on strong for a while now.”

“We’re happy to take the three points, which is what we needed against a team we’re fighting with for the La Liga title.”

“They have players who can really press up the field.”

“There are days when you are sharp, and others when you aren’t. We didn’t have the same sensation today that we usually have, but we were able to come away with the win, which was what was important.”

“There’s a lot of league left.”

Javier Mascherano reaction to victory over... por fcbarcelona
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