There’s no doubt Saturday was a tough night for Barca for a variety of reasons. Atletico inflicted a third defeat of the season on the Catalans, Diego Simeone enjoyed his first league win over Barca, leaving Ronald Koeman’s side now nine points behind the Rojiblancos.
The two teams have only played eight games, and there’s a still a very long way to go in the season, but that’s already looking like an ominous gap between the two clubs. Atletico remain unbeaten and have still conceded just two goals in La Liga in 2020-21.
It’s been a great start to the new campaign by Simeone’s men and an utterly miserable one from Koeman’s side. Indeed it’s now Barca’s worst start to a season since 1991 and means the Dutch coach is already in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
Barca lost Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto to injury against Atletico, with the duo adding to a growing injury list. Koeman was already without Ronald Araujo, Samuel Umtiti, Sergio Busquets and Ansu Fati and now looks set to lose the duo for a little while.
All of which leaves Clement Lenglet as the club’s only fit defender currently and means Frenkie de Jong may be forced back into central defense for the time being. Moving the Dutchman back also means Koeman may have to rethink his midfield.
Carles Alena and Riqui Puig have so far been virtually ignored by Koeman but will be desperately hoping some opportunities may now open up with the team hit by injuries to key players and facing a busy fixture list between now and the end of the year.
Barca may have put in an awful display but in the end the winning goal only came from a wild moment when Marc-Andre ter Stegen was caught out miles from his goal, allowing Yannick Carrasco to go on and slot the winner into an empty net.
Ter Stegen had been his usual commanding best after returning from injury, and had also made a great save from Saul Niguez early on, but it proved to be a very costly mistake by the German.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen has now made five errors leading to goals since April 2019, more than any other player in LaLiga in that timeframe.
What was he thinking?! pic.twitter.com/PIrUo1SNLT
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 21, 2020
Koeman wasn’t happy with the goal after the match saying “a team like Barcelona cannot concede a goal in the way we have done” and you can probably expect a heartfelt apology from Ter Stegen to appear on social media at some point.
Of course it wasn’t just Ter Stegen who was at fault for Aletico’s goal, with Pique’s mistake also contributing to the winner, but the goalkeeper will know he should have done much better in that situation.
Barca’s attack struggled again on Saturday, although that’s perhaps no surprise given they were away from home and up against the best defense in La Liga so far in 2020-21.
Lionel Messi played his 800th match in a Barcelona shirt against Atletico, but it’s not a game he’ll remember in a hurry. The captain scored a brilliant late winner on his last visit to the Wanda Metropolitano but saw his best chance saved by Jan Oblak this time around.
The forward also set up Barca’s best chance of the night with a great cross for Clement Lenglet, who could only head straight at Oblak, but other than that had a quiet game and still looks some way off his best form.
Antoine Griezmann also had yet another game where he offered little, Pedri struggled, Ansu Fati was missed, and the only positivity at all was supplied by Ousmane Dembele who looked lively and seems a lot more robust these days.
Koeman hasn’t been too keen on making changes so far in his tenure, or making full use of his squad, but changes must surely be on his mind after a poor start and with injuries limiting his options.
Sergino Dest has curiously been discarded recently for Sergi Roberto but should now feature against Dynamo Kiev in midweek at least, while Koeman may need to dip into Barca B to reinforce his backline in the coming weeks.
Miralem Pjanic did enough to keep his place in the team, while Alena and Puig may finally be rewarded for their patience. Perhaps Koeman could also be tempted into a formation change too in a bid to add some much-needed creativity?