Well, that was… something?
Tata Martino came out with his gala XI and played right into Diego Simeone’s hands. The 4 central midfielders plus Messi and Neymar is something that works against teams that want to counter or get possession, but against Diego Simeone’s Atletico, it was ineffective. This was a Madrid team without Arda Turan or Diego Costa, so they were supposedly there for the taking. However, Martino had other ideas.
Not only was the gala XI deployed, but Tata decided to come out with a few wrinkles (wrinkles I was initially in favor of, truth be told) and started Messi on the right and Fabregas as a false nine. To recap, in the most important game of Barcelona’s season, Tata Martino decided that Lionel Messi, Barcelona’s most important player, should play a peripheral role.
Hindsight is 20/20, and again, I was in favor of this lineup to start with, but as soon as Atletico scored, something – anything – had to be done. We needed two goals against a squad we could barely muster one against, and Martino deputized our most important player to the right, which, I mean, works against Real Madrid and their fickle midfield, but against Atletico? No.
I’m not saying Messi didn’t shit the bed tonight; I’m not saying the entire team, a team that so far this season has showed up to the important games, didn’t collectively shit the bed. They did. But the manager has to realize this.
I think Martino is a dead man walking, and I also think he knows it. He’s been marginalized too often this season, shitted on by journalists, cules, and Pep sympathizers ad nauseam. He’s as good as gone next year, and a lot of the players will follow suit.
This season is lost, already, in my opinion. Even if Barcelona win the league, even if they defeat Real Madrid in the final of the Copa del Rey, this season is filler.
What’s more, Tata will field the same lineup against Real next Wednesday. He might even get a result, a meaningless trophy in a season devoid of meaning. For the time being, Barcelona fans will rejoice. They will love sticking it to the capital.
Little do they know the joke is on them.