Barcelona produced arguably the most impressive performance of Xavi’s tenure as the Blaugrana made something of a statement in their 4-2 defeat of Atletico Madrid.
Diego Simeone brought up Xavi’s past criticism of Atletico’s style of play in the build-up, though the latter had the last laugh at Camp Nou as Barca replaced Los Colchoneros in fourth.
The visitors did enjoy a promising start with Yannick Carrasco’s well-worked opener eight minutes in, but Barca were soon ahead thanks to Jordi Alba’s excellent volley and a Gavi header.
Ronald Araujo increased Barca’s lead just before half-time and Dani Alves blasted in a fourth for his first goal since his return.
Luis Suarez pulled one back against his former club and Alves was dismissed, but Barca went on to claim a deserved win.
Atletico led in style as Suarez latched onto Koke’s excellent pass and fed Carrasco into the box, with the Belgian sweeping his first-time finish into the bottom-left corner.
They were pegged back just two minutes later when Dani Alves crossed to the left and Jordi Alba met it with a spectacular sliced volley that spun high into the far corner of the net.
Another Barca cross proved decisive soon after as the hosts went in front, debutant Adama Traore seeing his pinpoint delivery nodded in by Gavi.
Araujo then made it 3-1 late in the half, smashing in from close range after Ferran Torres headed Alves’ free-kick onto the crossbar.
Alves became the fourth-oldest player to score in LaLiga this century early in the second half, drilling home from Alba’s cut-back.
Barca were made to suffer as Suarez headed in and Alves was sent off for scraping his studs down Carrasco’s calf, but Atletico could not salvage a result.
What does it mean? Advantage Barcelona in top-four race
The title is all but out of reach for both Barca and Atletico, meaning securing Champions League football is the priority.
While it is not beyond the realms of possibility that both could finish in the top four, victory for Barca here is certainly a significant boost – and the opposite is true for Atletico, who drop to fifth.
In previous years, one might be inclined to back Atletico in such a race, but they have been so poor defensively that it is difficult to be so optimistic.
Traore makes a statement
Many were a bit surprised by Barca’s desire to bring Traore back to the club given he was not even a starter at Wolves, but he did show just how much of an impact he can have. He had a role in Barca’s first goal and then set up the second with an excellent cross. Beyond that, his carries caused problems in the Atletico defence, and such an explosive player could be invaluable for a Barca side that has often looked short of invention.
Alves’ moment of madness
The veteran Brazilian right-back was excellent for much of the game, setting up Alba’s volley and getting a lovely goal of his own, but his decision to scrape his studs down Carrasco’s calf made no sense and was asking for a red card. That put Barca under pressure – luckily for him, they got the job done.
Barca have the local derby with Espanyol to look forward to next Sunday. Atletico host nearby Getafe the day before.