Barcelona beat Atletico to edge closer to title

With Manchester United afforded a rare weekend off, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his assistant Mike Phelan headed to Catalunya to get a closer look at our next Champions League opponents, FC Barcelona.

The Spanish champions will be at Old Trafford on Wednesday to contend the first leg of our Champions League quarter-final, but first they had to tackle Atletico Madrid, the team with the best chance of overhauling their eight-point La Liga lead.
 
Diego Simeone's side were in second position heading into Saturday evening's match at the Nou Camp, knowing only a win would be realistically be enough to assist an unlikely charge for the title. 
 
But the Argentinean's competitive side were unable to take anything from Barcelona's famous fortress, eventually succumbing to two goals in the final 10 minutes. 
Lionel Messi against Atletico Madrid.
Lionel Messi puts Atleti's defenders under pressure.
First, Diego Costa was shown a straight red card for insulting referee Jesus Gil Manzano in the first half, leaving Simeone with the difficult task of reorganising his 10 men against a Barca side that had notched 79 goals in 30 league games.
 
Then, after Simeone's plan had worked for much of the second half, Luis Suarez struck in the 85th minute, before Lionel Messi slid home an emphatic second almost immediately after play had resumed.
 
Coach Ernesto Valverde brought back Gerard Pique, Ivan Rakitic and Messi to the starting line-up, after benching the trio for Tuesday's visit to Villareal, but the Blaugrana had to wait until the game's dying minutes for a decisive breakthrough, as Solskjaer and Phelan watched on.

 

Finally, with minutes remaining, Suarez found the net. Picking the ball up around 20 yards from goal, the Uruguayan curled home a powerful, precise shot in off the post.

The following minute, buoyant Barca counter-attacked, and Messi found himself roaring towards the penalty area. The clever playmaker looked up, waited for Oblak and Atletico's defenders to blink first, to play their cards, and then simply slid the ball into the emptiest segment of the net.

The only blot for Barcelona were yellow cards for former United defender Pique and Luis Suarez, who will now miss their team's next league game against SD Huesca, which comes between the two legs against United.

Barcelona XI: Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Arthur; Messi, Coutinho, Suarez.

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