Laying down what was a real La Liga marker on Sunday night, Barcelona picked up what could turn out to be a crucial 1-0 victory away at Atletico Madrid.
Watching Real Madrid suffer a shock 2-1 loss away at Villarreal 24 hours prior, Xavi’s side managed to extend their buffer at the top of the table to three points as Ousmane Dembele clinched a first-half winner here.
Enjoying what has been a stellar purple patch on either side of the World Cup break, the Spanish heavyweights also piled more pressure onto an Atletico squad who have continued to show a string of inconsistencies this season.
With Ferran Torres and Stefan Savic both shown their own late red cards after an off-the-ball altercation, fans around the Nou Camp will be excited by what was another eye-catching performance in the capital.
In a real showdown between two former Spanish champions, we have taken a look at the key talking points from the Estadio Metropolitano.
Barca continue to fly under Xavi
Eventually finishing 13 points adrift of Los Blancos and reclaiming their domestic crown last season, few across Spain would have expected such a stellar rally from Barcelona this time around.
While the Spanish icons might have been dealing with some public financial issues over recent times, Xavi’s young stars have only continued on a remarkable purple patch on either side of the World Cup break.
Watching their arch-rivals suffer what could be a crucial slip-up away at Villarreal on Saturday afternoon, fans around Catalonia were calling on their side to lay down a real title marker in the capital.
With the mood around the Nou Camp appearing to be at the highest it has been in recent memory, there is no doubt that Xavi’s side have their sights set on making more history in 2023.
Although Barca might have had to settle for a 1-1 draw against Espanyol when they signed off 2022 on New Year’s Eve, Sunday’s guests have now claimed 19 points from just their last seven La Liga appearances
Facing what is a Super Cup showdown against Real Betis in midweek, Xavi’s men really couldn’t have wished for a better morale boost here.
Dembele proves his value
Making the trip to Madrid on Sunday night unable to call upon attacking talisman Robert Lewandowski, some would have been wondering who would take the role of spearheading Barcelona’s charge.
While there might have once again been more speculation over recent weeks that Dembele could be on his way out of Catalonia during the January transfer window, the French international stole of the headlines here.
Playing a crucial role as Les Bleus booked their World Cup final ticket last month, the former Borussia Dortmund starlet has become a vital part of Xavi’s plans at the Nou Camp.
Only continuing to gain a string of praise from Xavi over his stellar displays this season, the 25-year-old has enjoyed a hugely impressive turnaround since putting pen to paper on a new deal.
Rubbishing any reports about a potential switch since returning from the festive break, Dembele hs now recorded 10 goals and assists in his 16 La Liga outings so far.
Pressure back on Simeone?
While Atletico Madrid might have signed off 2022 with a 2-0 victory at home against Elche on December 29th, it appears that might have just been a minor boost for Diego Simeone’s side.
Dropping out of the top-four following Sunday’s 1-0 loss at the Estadio Metropolitano, Los Colchoneros look set to face what could be a real uphill struggle in the New Year.
Enduring a public Champions League nightmare this season and without any European competition on the horizon, there could be some growing pressure on Simeone’s shoulders.
With the 52-year-old involved in a fallout with attacking talisman Joao Felix, Atletico have managed to muster just a single La Liga victory from any of their previous five appearances – a run that stems back to October 23rd.
With that woeful spell underlined by shock defeats against both Mallorca and Cadiz, Sunday’s hosts are desperate to try and find some much-needed stability in 2023.
Likewise, claiming just a single top-flight win at the Metropolitano since the start of October, could Simeone’s 12-year stay be during to an end sooner rather than later?
Atletico Madrid: Oblak, Molina, Savic, Gimenez, Mandava, Llorente, Koke, Barrios, Carrasco, Griezmann, Felix
Subs: Lemar, Correa, Kondogbia, Reguilon, Morata
Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Kounde, Araujo, Christensen, Balde, de Jong, Busquets, Gavi, Dembele, Fati, Pedri
Subs: Alonson, Kessie, Torres, Raphina, Roberto
Goals: Dembele (22′)
Yellow Cards: Atletico Madrid: Molina, Correa – Barcelona: Raphina, Christensen, Araujo
Red Cards: Atletico Madrid: Savic – Barcelona: Torres
Referee: Jose Luis Munuera Montero