There’s a school of thought currently trending that suggests Barca’s defeat in the Clasico can only be a good thing for Atletico Madrid ahead of their Champions League tie on Tuesday night.
Real Madrid’s 2-1 win at the Nou Camp was Barcelona’s first defeat in 39 games, and the argument that Ronaldo’s late winner has removed the cloak of invincibility from Luis Enrique’s side, just as they’re set to face an Atletico side brimming from a 5-1 win over Real Betis, is a convincing one.
After all, the Clasico proved its usual blood-and-thunder affair, and a battered and bruised Barcelona side could think of few things they’d want to follow it up with than another tussle against Real’s city neighbours. The way Real carved out the win, with a deep defensive line and a focus on the counter, is also exactly how Diego Simeone has his side set up to play.
Not forgetting of course, that it was Atletico who prevented the world of football from witnessing the European Cup’s first Clasico final, when they dumped Barcelona out of the semi-final two years ago. For those reasons alone, more than a few might fancy the 13/2 on offer for Atletico to take a first-leg lead to the Vincente Calderon Stadium in a week’s time.
But there’s a reason this Barcelona side doesn’t lose often, and it’s to do with how they react to the few times when they are on the losing side. Season after season, the Catalans have avoided anything remotely resembling a rut.
This campaign’s only two others defeats saw instant winning reactions. In October, a 2-1 loss in Sevilla was followed with a 5-2 home win over Rayo Vallecano. Similarly in September, when they were shocked 4-1 at Celta Vigo, they responded with a 2-1 victory at home to Las Palmas.
One needs to stretch back to October 2014 to find the last time Barcelona lost two on the spin in any competition. Even Atletico themselves have been recent recipients of the Barca bounceback; after Athletic Bilbao shocked Barca by claiming the Super Cup over two legs at the start of the season, a Luis Suarez strike saw Atletico defeated at home in the league in the following game.
The same scoreline occurred in the same stadium the season before, after Barca had lost 3-2 to Bayern in the Champions League semi-final, and even then they had prevailed 5-3 over two legs.
The pattern continues, a 1-0 loss to Malaga in February 2015 was followed up with a 2-1 win at Manchester City, a 1-0 loss to Real Sociedad in January that year saw them recover with a 5-0 home thumping of Elche the very next game.
Not only that, but since Atletico dared to knock Barcelona out of the Champions League, Barca have won all six of their following clashes. So with Simeone yet to claim a win over Enrique, the Argentinian might yet be wishing that Barcelona had enjoyed an unremarkable and narrow victory against their biggest rivals at the weekend. Instead his side now face the prospect of facing a wounded and angry Barcelona backed by 90,000 fans keen on seeing retribution.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.