Although there are still a few games to go of the current La Liga season, only the most optimistic of Barcelona fans will believe their team is in with a chance of winning the title now.
After a hugely surprising loss to Granada saw any advantage that they might’ve had in the title race evaporate, the Catalans had one last chance to put a marker down by beating an Atletico Madrid side that had been under par away from home in recent weeks.
A win over Diego Simeone’s side would’ve seen Barca top the table for the first time in 2020/21, but the blaugranes were toothless for long periods of the 0-0 draw.Their poor showing owed as much to Ronald Koeman’s lack of nous as anything else. Unable to be on the sidelines because of a suspension (as a result of a sending off a couple of weeks ago), his in-game management was incredibly poor for a game of this magnitude.
For example, why did he bring on Sergi Roberto as a substitute rather than the much more dynamic Riqui Puig? Why was it left until the last quarter hour before Ousmane Demebele was unleashed on a tiring Atleti side.
In all aspects, Koeman got it wrong again, something he’s managed to do with all of Barcelona’s most important fixtures this season, save for the Copa del Rey final.
Their cause wasn’t helped after Sergio Busquets had to leave the field with concussion, but that’s making excuses for a team that weren’t at the races at any point during the 90 minutes.
A fierce Messi shot was all they had to show for their first half effort, with little to write home about in the second 45.
Given that a win would’ve put immense pressure on Real Madrid to deliver against Sevilla on Sunday night, whilst also seeing Barca top the table for the first time in 2020/21, the 0-0 is a real opportunity missed.
In order for the Catalans to still be in with a shout of the title now, they need either Atleti or Real to lose one of their last four matches, or draw two of them.
Such a scenario may happen to one of the teams, but it’s a little fanciful to think that both Madrid sides will falter when the title is within touching distance now.
Failure to win the league could have huge repercussions too, given that Neymar has just renewed his contract with PSG, and Messi might believe he has a better chance of lifting a title there.