If any of you have ever seen The Departed (no spoilers here), do you remember that part in the elevator where you thought it was about to end well and then it suddenly didn’t end well at all? With this win over Atlético Madrid on Sunday, La Liga has become that elevator scene. And yes, Real Madrid also won against Villareal, but they were anything but convincing – and once again, dubious referee decisions (yes, again) allowed Real back into the match. FC Barcelona are closing up the gap, and Sevilla don’t appear to be going anywhere. While this ain’t Boston, that elevator scene might be playing out over the next few weeks.
The weekend is upon us and it’s time for another La Liga match. This one can only be hectic and tough, as FC Barcelona travels to Madrid to play Atlético Madrid for the 3rd time in February. With Real Madrid’s loss in midweek against Valencia, it’s time for Barça to finally close the gap and smell 1st position, although Real Madrid has one match in advantage still.
Before the break, Barcelona’s Copa del Rey tie with Atleti was a dominant display capped off with a two-goal advantage.
The second half, conversely, was a reminder that you should never feel calm at half-time and always prepare for the last 45 minutes to test your nerves.
The last three matches against Atlético Madrid have brought almost no fruit. A 2-1 win in the first leg of the UEFA Champions Quarter Final in Camp Nou (against a 10 man Atlético), a 0-2 loss at the Vicente Calderón in the second leg, and now a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou. There are few sides, if any, that are capable of nullifying our team the way Atlético are. Then again, there are few sides, if any, that are capable of the defensive discipline Diego Simeone’s men are. When these two sides clash, it is a battle of Attack vs Defense. A true battle of opposites. So then, does this mean that Atlético indeed has figured us out, and if so, should we be concerned?
Let’s make one thing clear from the get-go: Yes, dropping two points when we had the chance to gain ground on Real Madrid is a disappointment, without a shadow of a doubt. A quick look at the way Atletico scored makes you want to pull out your hair even more; a completely avoidable goal that was the result of a momentary lapse in concentration from two players (Pique and Mascherano) who were absolute beasts otherwise.
“Good artists create. Great artists steal”
And so the age-old saying goes. Two paradoxes exist between Los Colchoneros and La Blaugrana, and they are not just found in the cultural authenticity of Catalonia in contrast with the fast lane of the capital, Madrid. The first paradox is found where one team currently finds itself; at the pinnacle of world football and excellence, and where the other aspires to find itself. The second paradox is found in the manner in which excellence is achieved: art, grit inventiveness, toughness.
A lot has been said about the 2015/2016 season. And even though it proved to be a success (Yes, a double is a success folks), there was a bitter taste left in the mouths of all cules. Seeing our arch-rivals in Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid competing for top honours in the UEFA Champions League Final seemed a strange ending to a season that had started with so much promise. Celebrating the Copa Del Rey triumph proved an even stranger feeling. I personally can attest to feeling like I was jumping for joy for a 2nd place finish.