Barca remain top thanks to Dembele's goal at the capital
Barcelona stretched their unbeaten LaLiga run to seven games without defeat and fuelled their title aspirations, courtesy of a determined display which saw them beat Atlético Madrid 1-0 at the Metropolitano Stadium.
Due to Real Madrid's defeat at Villarreal, Barcelona now has a chance to regain the lead in the league standings after their draw against Espanyol last time out allowed their bitter rivals to catch up to them on 38 points going into this round. But with Christmas in Spain officially past, Diego Simeone's team didn't seem to be in the giving spirit as they defended furiously with a flat back four that included newly crowned FIFA World Cup champion Nahuel Molina.
But instead of the notorious Simeone-ball that some would have anticipated, a frantic and open competition took place. The Blaugrana's star player, Pedri, who has at times in his brief career resembled his coach Xavi, was at home in Madrid as his team, which often dominates possession, did so. He had a key role in Barça's first-half goal, beating a few players and sliding across the box to teammate Gavi, who then found Ousmane Dembélé for Barcelona's first goal in this location since 2019.
That’s not to say Atléti didn’t put up a fight, and after ending the first half in the ascendancy, they had their foot firmly on the ball again after the restart. However, a Barça backline - which has conceded just six LaLiga goals so far - proved a difficult obstacle to overcome, with ex-Barcelona man Antoine Griezmann failing to produce a performance as bright as the pink hair he sported this evening.
Sergio Busquets restarted the metronome as the hour mark approached, and chances soon followed. Dembélé, who had been looking close to his best throughout the game, struck the post after bursting past the hosts' defense. Although Stefan Savi and Ferran Torres were both sent off for a late brawl, Barcelona's poise as they held onto their slim advantage in the dying moments may have brought to mind the best of Atlético for some spectators. And based on this performance at a notoriously difficult venue, Barcelona's push for their first championship since the 2018–19 season will be difficult to halt.