Barcelona 2-0 Inter: Messi-less Blaugrana pass the test
However much football you've seen, there's always something new to be witnessed. At the Camp Nou last night, Barcelona (Luis Suárez, to be precise) had a free-kick on the edge of the Inter Milan area. As usually happens, the players in the wall jumped to get in the way of the flight of the Uruguayan's effort... but he instead sent his shot below them, a la Lionel Messi. However, it turned out that Inter coach Luciano Spalletti had prepared for such an eventuality and, as his team-mates leapt into the air, Marcelo Brozovic threw himself full length across the turf, with his back to the ball, and it rebounded off his gluteal region and flew out for a corner. The quick-witted TV director cut straight to Messi, who initially smiled before clearly thinking: maybe that's not a good idea...
It was a positive night for Messi-less Barcelona
Messi wasn't playing; he was up in the stands with his son, who he seemed to be explaining the game to. That was nice to see, and the shots the director gave over to him were well timed and neatly done. We were watching something unusual - Barça without Messi - and these glimpses both reminded us of his absence and somehow also alleviated it. The Blaugrana played as well as they could without him. Rafinha came in for the Argentine, in a side that saw Arthur dictate the play nicely and Suárez run himself into the ground, getting through the work of two men. Rafinha did well, so Barça will presumably turn to him in Sunday's Clásico, too. All in all, it was an evening of positives for the Catalans, except for the home fans making it plain that they are far from taken with Arturo Vidal.
Atlético Madrid endure torrid night in Germany
Barcelona's good night's work in coming through their first test without Messi in the side was in stark contrast to Atlético Madrid's catastrophic outing in Dortmund, where Los Rojiblancos were on the end of the kind of walloping that, in times past, every Spanish side seemed to get on German soil. It's a particularly dire result for Atlético because they remain in the process of deciding whether to stick or twist with their playing style (it's a quandary Diego Simeone has been dogged by for a while, and you can see it in his line-ups), and thoughts tend to be clouded by being handed such a hiding. It goes without saying that this was the away game in the group that they could afford to lose; but not by a margin as great as that. Getting thrashed like this has a destabilising effect.