A few days ago, Messi skived off a chat from Valverde and on Saturday the Barcelona forward wasn’t in the starting XI against Athletic. I don’t know if these things are related in any way other than their simple proximity in time, but it feels like that’s the case. Of course, it’s dangerous to leave Messi out, even more so in these times with Piqué less than solid and the team wobbly. The end result was Athletic being on top in the first half and going ahead. When Messi came on, of course, things were different. The game changed, but finished with a draw. Messi’s not going off with Argentina in the international break - what urgency was there to rest him? He seems grumpy recently. At the end of the match he protested until he got a yellow.
Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid fail to take advantage
The result for the two teams in the Madrid derby was a gift, but neither took full advantage. Although they both tried. They did everything they could. Atlético started better and had Madrid all over the place. The home side were set up badly and didn’t feel comfortable. They reached the break without having conceded thanks to Courtois, who saved respective one-on-ones against Griezmann and Diego Costa. On the return from the dressing room, Ceballos came on for Bale (groin strain) and Madrid were better organised with a 4-4-2. Ceballos was in fine form, carrying out the work that is usually Isco’s and Madrid piled through on Oblak, who though is also his side’s guarantee at the back right now.
Talking points from the Madrid derby
The result was an intense derby, with every player doing his utmost, and with plenty of talking points: Diego Costa and Benzema subbed off when the game was at its most dramatic; Griezmann placed on a pedestal, compensating for the decline of Godín, whose age is showing; Ceballos fully vindicated after being ostracised by Zidane; the debut of Vinicius, first player born in the 21st century to turn out for Real Madrid, who played with verve and daring. And it leaves the feeling that neither Modric nor Griezmann are eating at the table alongside Cristiano and Messi. And it left Atletico as distrusting of the referees as they were before the VAR.