5 – Number of Fouls on Messi in First half: Messi was noticeably frustrated approaching half time with the treatment being dished out to him. He alone was fouled 5 times in the first half. The only place he could find space was on the right wing but once he took possession he was immediately hounded down by a bloodthirsty Atletico Madrid. Obviously the treatment got to Messi. He was even less effective in the second half missing a
penalty late on and also giving away possession of the ball. The foul count at the end of the game was close to 30-8 (Athletico obviously ahead). Not letting Barcelona get into their stride and tightly marking Messi are key to beating this Barcelona side.
6 – Number of crosses from Dani Alves: It appears that Tata Martino favours a more direct approach to that of his predecessors. Neymar, Pedro and Alexis all looked to take on their direct opponent when possible and deliver into the box, where previously the ball would be recycled. Dani Alves too was more direct in possession. He put 6 crosses into the penalty area during the game. 2/3 of these were reasonably dangerous. Neymar had a half a chance when he put the ball back across goal when a shot at goal seemed the better option. Courtois too had to cut out another couple of dangerous Alves balls. Overall though Barca lacked numbers in the box to sufficiently test athletico and deliveries from this side were comfortably dealt with.
1 – Number of Barcelona shots on target: The first thing to note here is that Barca did not need to score on the night as they were ahead on away goals. However they still had lots of possession but couldn’t break an excellently organised and hardworking Athletico side down. Iniesta was left out and Cesc included which should have given them an extra option in the box. However Barca couldn’t get the ball to Cesc or Messi in dangerous positions. They were heavily outnumbered. As aforementioned there were some crosses from the right had side that Atletico dealt with easily. The Alba-Neymar combination looks more promising. However space in behind the opposition will be difficult for Neymar to find during the season which will make it hard to show his excellent dribbling/counter attacking skills. The conundrum Tata faces is that without Iniesta in the side he is without his best link player in the final third. With him Barca lack the forward runners to create against the best defensive sides.
3 – Number of Athletico shots on target: Barcelona have been known to be vunerable to the counter attack over the years and it has contributed to their downfall on a number of occasions. Here they were comfortable. As noted above they did not over commit and Athletico had few opportunities. This augers well for Barca for the season. Mascherano remains the most culpable for giving away counter attacks (He also stops the most counter attacks) and his wayward ball usage led to a number of counter attacks that los rojiblancos did have.
7 – Number of David Villa Turnovers: David Villa was signed in the summer and bears the burden of trying to fill the boots of Rademal Falcao. There is no doubt that he can score goals but in a game where the team has little possession he may not possess the qualities needed to perform effectively. He turned over the ball continuously and further does not possess the pace and power to threaten on the break. He did have a good effort on goal from long range and was involved in Turan’s chance in the first half but overall his performance was limited and if Athletic want to challenge in the Champions League Diego Costa’s presence may be needed up front.