Conditions conspired to give us a glimpse of a rarely used, outdated tactic on Saturday: an authentic and faithful use of man-marking during Girona’s hosting of Barcelona at the Estadi Montilivi. What this means is that Girona defender Pablo Maffeo was entirely sacrificed to negate the influence of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi — wherever Messi went, there was Maffeo. When Girona were in possession, Maffeo continued to mark Messi. In fact, Maffeo was substituted in the 78th minute after recording only 10 touches.
Atletico Madrid defeated Athletic Bilbao 2-1 at the San Mames on Tuesday to continue their unbeaten start to league play after five matches. But anemic draws against Girona and Valencia find them trailing Barcelona by four points, and you can’t fight the feeling that despite the continued excellence of players like Koke and Antoine Griezmann, there’s a Diego Costa-sized hole in this Atleti side.