Adama Traore shines on Camp Nou return as Barca better Atletico

New loan signing Adama Traore ran the show as Barcelona saw off defending champions Atletico Madrid by four goals to two. In an electrifying game, an early Atleti lead was squandered in two minutes, Dani Alves scored, assisted, and got sent off, six January signings featured, and Luis Suarez again came back to bite Barca.

FC Barcelona recently made a statement to world football with a blockbuster January transfer window, and the statement was simple: we’re back. New manager Xavi wasted no time with the surprise resigning of his former teammate Dani Alves and the €55 million transfer of Manchester City attacker Ferran Torres before the window had even officially begun. Following these two swift arrivals, the incomings at Barcelona seemed to have halted and the work appeared to have been done—until the dying days of the window.

With two days of the window to go, former La Masia academy product Adama Traore signed from Wolverhampton Wanderers for the remainder of the season with an option to make the deal permanent at the end of the loan. This would have been enough for most culés, but the dying hours of the window yielded the biggest name of the lot (quite literally); Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had signed for FC Barcelona.

All four of these signings featured in the must-see clash against Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid, Aubameyang on the bench and the other three starting; but the dream window looked like it wouldn’t be enough to change the tide of Barca’s nightmare season as Yannick Carrasco slotted the ball into the bottom corner with less than 10 minutes played. Far from dropping Catalan heads, the early setback seemed to wake Barca up, with an equalizer coming only two minutes later. After Traore took the ball into the Atletico box, supporters across the Camp Nou may have thought they’d traveled back in time as Dani Alves picked out Jordi Alba across the box, who lofted a perfectly timed volley into Oblak’s goal.

Barca continued to show that they were not the same side who had struggled so much under Ronald Koeman’s regime in the first half of the season; and added another goal shortly after. Traore had already shown what he could bring to La Liga with a few excellent dribbling displays in the early moments of the fixture, but it was his contribution to the second goal, a sumptuous cross to youngster Gavi after rinsing Mario Hermoso with a display of breakneck pace, that demonstrated the Spanish winger is far more than a ‘one-trick pony’.

Gavi runs off in jubilation with his teammate Jordi Alba after his goal

Fellow new signing Ferran Torres had his blushes saved minutes before the end of the first half; when his acrobatic miss fell into the path of centre half Ronald Araujo, who leathered the ball into the bottom corner. Araujo, who has been linked heavily to both Manchester clubs, is having a strong season; the Uruguayan defender is in the 96th percentile for blocks per 90 amongst centre halves, and is one of Barca’s strongest players in the air, winning 2.1 aerial duels out of 2.9 per game.

Fans would’ve been hoping for double figures when living legend Dani Alves thundered a low cross into the back of the net only four minutes after the restart, but Luis Suarez soon brought the Camp Nou faithful back down to earth; the illustrious striker scored 147 league goals in only 191 games when he played for Barcelona, and he once again reminded his former club what they were missing when the Uruguayan diverted a header past his ex-teammate Marc-André ter Stegen to make it 4-2.

With Barcelona starting to display some nerves, Dani Alves turned what could’ve been a perfect return to Catalonia, after over 2000 days away, into an afternoon of mixed emotions when he was shown a straight red for stamping his studs down into the calf of Atleti goal-scorer Carrasco. Alves’ dismissal came only minutes after the introduction of Aubameyang, who didn’t get any opportunities to show the pace and finishing that made him so deadly in his first seasons at Arsenal in the half an hour he was on the pitch.

With the score ending 4-2, and Barca taking home all three points in their first game of 2022 at their home ground, the strongest plaudits deserved to go to Adama Traore; no Barcelona player attempted or completed as many dribbles as the Spaniard, and the assist is a good sign that Traore is going to be out to disprove the common perception that he lacks an end product.

The result means that Barcelona go fourth in the table, leapfrogging Atletico in the process, but remain 15 points behind league leaders Real Madrid. FC Barcelona’s next fixture is against fellow Catalan side Espanyol on the 13th, whilst Atleti takes on Getafe on the previous day.

Written by Sam Houston

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