Messi used to be the difference between Barca and Atletico, says Simeone

By Sports Desk October 02, 2021

Diego Simeone did not feel Atletico Madrid were any better against Barcelona on Saturday than in previous meetings, with Lionel Messi's absence instead the decisive factor.

Atletico have had a poor record against Barca in Simeone's time at the club, going 20 without a win in this fixture before their 1-0 success in 2020-21.

But they have now gone three without conceding to the Blaugrana in LaLiga for the first time, having drawn 0-0 at the end of last season and won 2-0 on Saturday.

Barca had 70.4 per cent of the possession but created only nine shots worth a combined 1.0 expected goals at the Wanda Metropolitano.

New Paris Saint-Germain signing Messi had scored 26 goals in 30 LaLiga games against Atleti – only managing more against Sevilla (30) and Valencia (27) – and a lack of cutting edge was evident without him.

"It's the first game we played against Barca without Messi," coach Simeone told a news conference. "Other games there has not been much difference to this one, but now Messi is not there."

By contrast, Atleti were ruthless in attack, led by former Barca superstar Luis Suarez.

He teed up the opener for Thomas Lemar, who returned the favour for Suarez to score against Barca for the first time, meaning he has netted against all 31 opponents he has faced in Spain's top flight.

Joao Felix was also involved in both goals, with the opener including one of four passes he completed to Suarez. He found no team-mate more often.

The Portugal international started ahead of Antoine Griezmann, who failed to fire from the bench, but Simeone was not ready to declare Joao Felix and Suarez his new first-choice front line.

"At this hour, we can't get carried away by one game," he said. "There's [Angel] Correa, Griezmann's moment. He scored in the Champions League.

"We have important footballers. Hopefully they can accept that we can be a group so we can be a team."

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