Koeman still manages to get the best out of his side, with or without Messi. Whilst the performances are far from dazzling, the Catalan side keep racking up the points. Koeman cuts an affable figure at the helm of this historic club embroiled in a state of confusion and has managed to forge a side who are outside contenders for the title. The Dutch coach was a master at taking penalty kicks and was somewhat aghast earlier in the week at the number of spot kicks his side have missed. In his time as a player, Koeman was rock solid at the heart of the Barça Dream Team defence and must have struggled yesterday as he saw defensive lapses from Umtiti and Mingueza in his attempt to find Araújo. Fortunately for the Barcelona manager, Ter Stegen is generally on hand to avert the danger.
Barça march on
Barcelona won in Elche with a De Jong goal and a late effort from Riqui to seal the win with the young player enjoying four very productive four minutes at the end of the action. His joy at scoring was visible to see and the player is clearly well liked in the dressing room with the reaction from his team-mates upon celebrating reinforcing this notion. The downside for both Barça (and indeed for Real Madrid) is that Atlético maintain their unstoppable escape at the summit of the table with a sense that the 'big two' are a step behind Cholo Simeone's men. Atleti closed Sunday's action with a decent win over Valencia, where they came from 0-1 (with the opening Racic defining the word 'unstoppable'), ultimately running out 3-1 winners in a most impressive performance.
Seven points gap
João Félix was brought back to the team after missing out in Eibar after his recent petulant outburst and responded with a goal which the Portuguese executed in acrobatic fashion and reminded me of the Mario Kempes effort in the final of the 1978 World Cup. The former Benfica man was substituted once again with Atleti in charge after the unstoppable Luis Suárez slotted home from an acute angle. Simeone's change was his way of reminding João Félix as to who is in charge and Felix's replacement Correa responded by tucking home the third of the night for the home side after some fine work from Llorente. We should not forget that both Luis Suárez and Llorente were gifts from Barça and Madrid respectively as Atlético stretch their lead to seven points with a game in hand.