Barcelona suffer deja vu as Atletico eliminate Catalans from UCL again
It was deja vu. For the second time in three seasons, Barcelona have exited the Champions League at the quarterfinal stage to La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid. Two Antoine Griezmann goals were enough on Wednesday to allow Diego Simeone's side to overturn last week's 2-1 defeat at Camp Nou, winning 2-0 on the night and advancing to the semifinals by a 3-2 aggregate margin.
Barca, worryingly, have now won just one of their past five games in all competitions. Their draw with Villarreal before the international break was followed up with defeats to Real Madrid and Real Sociedad in the league, while last week's win against Atletico now counts for little.
Luis Enrique's side now have to focus on the domestic double after their dreams of a double Treble disintegrated at the Vicente Calderon. They still have a three-point lead in La Liga and a Copa del Rey final to come against Sevilla, however, becoming the first team to retain the Champions League in the modern era is not going to happen.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 6 -- There was little he could do about either goal -- a free header and a penalty -- but he did suffer a couple of wayward moments. He was rooted to the ground when Saul Niguez's header hit the crossbar in the second half, completely unaware of where the ball was going. He was good with the ball, but his short passes often put his teammates under pressure early on as Atletico pressed high.
DF Dani Alves, 4 -- The Brazilian seems to either be really good or really bad at the moment. Unfortunately for Barca, he was the latter against Atletico. Lionel Messi had to bail him out at one point in the first half and moments later Alves had little choice but to foul Koke, who had beaten him far too easily. Maybe it was a problem with his boots, because he kept slipping over before being replaced by Sergi Roberto.
DF Gerard Pique, 5 -- It wasn't the smoothest of nights for the Catalan defender. He slipped at one stage in the first half, only to recover and hook the ball away from the dangerous Yannick Carrasco just in time. He also did well to interrupt an Atletico break after the half, but there was something not quite right about his performance, perhaps because he came into the game having picked up a minor knock in the loss to Real Sociedad at the weekend.
DF Javier Mascherano, 6 -- Barca's best defender. His determination to drive his side through was evident from early on, when he stole a ball in the Atletico half and got a shot away, only to see it blocked. Was able to deal with Griezmann each time the home side looked to break in the second half, too.
DF Jordi Alba, 5 -- His sloppy clearance led to the opening goal, he gave the ball away frequently and he had to foul Juanfran to stop an Atletico counter in the first half, but he was one of Barca's better players after the break. Popped up on the right wing to deliver one dangerous cross and even drove inside from the left minutes later, only to see his shot blocked as he took advantage of the space created by his side's well-marked attackers.
MF Sergio Busquets, 5 -- Perhaps it's no coincidence that Busquets' dip in form has coincided with Barca winning just one of their last five games. He's seemingly been, somewhat strangely, affected by a finger injury and is struggling to find his best performances. At the Vicente Calderon, once again, he was not the same player that so often makes this side tick.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 5 -- Industrious as ever, but the Croatian lacked quality when Barcelona most needed it. His performance was summed up best in one second-half minute, shortly before being replaced by Arda Turan. He was in the right place to break up an Atletico attack after Ter Stegen had been caught out, but then needlessly gave the ball away up the other end less than 60 seconds later.
MF Andres Iniesta, 6 -- Gave away the penalty with a handball, but was one of Luis Enrique's side's better performers on the night. Glided forward with the ball, but couldn't find space in Atletico's water-tight defence. Tested Jan Oblak from distance and should have earned his side a penalty in stoppage time, but the Italian referee judged Gabi's handball to be outside the box.
FW Lionel Messi, 5 -- Three hat tricks and 25 goals in 29 games against Atletico Madrid. That was Messi's record against the Rojiblanco before extending his goal drought to five games. It's now been 452 minutes since he last scored. Struggled to have an impact on this game, with his best chances, two free kicks, failing to hit the target.
FW Luis Suarez, 5 -- A passenger for an hour, the Uruguayan was at least seen in the final 30 minutes. He showed great strength to keep hold of the ball in the box once, but wasted the chance, shooting straight at Oblak. It wasn't for a lack of effort that things didn't work out for him. He was desperate to get on the end of one Alba cross, giving international teammate Diego Godin a black eye in the process, but it was not to be.
FW Neymar, 5 -- With Barca chasing the game in the second half, he knocked the ball around Juanfran and looked for a way around the Spain right-back. There was no way around, though, and that was the story of Neymar's night. He let his frustration get the better of him, kicking out at Juanfran and earning himself a booking. He didn't get anywhere near Oblak's goal -- no wonder he was annoyed.
MF Arda Turan, 6 -- He won almost everything at Atletico, but he left because he wanted more. He wanted the Champions League. Barca won it last season, but they won't become the first team to retain it in the modern era after crashing out to Arda's former side. The Turkish international tried when he came on, but he's a long way from his best at the moment.
DF Sergi Roberto, 5 -- Came on as Barca looked for a way back into the tie, but his most noticeable contribution was to give the ball away as Atletico broke for their second.