Champions League takeaways: Luis Suarez saves Barcelona

Barcelona's Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during a Champions League quarter-final, first leg soccer match between FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday April 5, 2016. (Emilio Morenatti/AP)

A Barcelona bailout, courtesy of Luis Suarez, helped save the Catalans from a critical loss as they rallied to defeat Atletico Madrid 2-1 in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal at the Camp Nou on Tuesday.

Fernando Torres silenced the Barcelona crowd with the opening strike of the game, then reinvigorated it when he was sent off just 10 minutes after his goal.

Despite the late collapse, Atletico should still feel positive heading into the second leg at the Vicente Calderon next Wednesday thanks to the away goal from Torres.

Here are three thoughts from the game…

Indiscipline hurts Atletico vs. Barcelona again
The last time these teams met was also at the Camp Nou and Atletico struck first in that game as well. Atleti was dealt a red card and finished the match with nine players as Barca won 2-1.

Tuesday’s encounter was a near carbon copy of the La Liga clash back on Jan. 6.

The major difference was that Atletico led before Torres was sent off. It’s easy to point out that one incident and blame it on the defeat, but it definitely made the team’s task a lot tougher.

Los Colchoneros stayed compact for the rest of the first half. Centre backs Lucas Hernandez and Diego Godin nullified the threat of Luis Suarez, Gabi pressed Lionel Messi and Juanfran never lost sight of Neymar. However, as the game wore on, Diego Simeone’s side couldn’t hold on any longer.

Now Torres, who has scored 11 goals in 17 matches against Barca, is suspended for the second leg. Simeone will likely switch to a front two of Antoine Griezmann and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, but the Spanish international is like kryptonite for Los Cules.

Barcelona’s defence is far from perfect
Barcelona won, and the team will certainly be relieved about the result, but the recent defensive performances have been concerning.

Jordi Alba and Dani Alves are not defensive-minded full backs, but they were caught high up the pitch, which Atletico tried to expose. Once Barca began to crowd the flanks, the visitors tried to move the ball centrally. This strategy led to the opening goal.

Sergio Busquets roamed to his left, Koke called for the ball, received it, took advantage of the open space without Busquets, which Gerard Pique tried to cover, and the Spanish midfielder did the rest.

The Champions League holders eventually clamped down on Atletico’s midfielders when they were in position, but the back line tends to push too high up the pitch. Real Madrid exploited this a few times this past weekend in El Clasico. Surely Simeone will try to replicate Zinedine Zidane’s tactics in the second leg.

Suarez the Sniper
It’s always difficult to choose which member of Barcelona’s ‘MSN’ trio is the most integral to the team, but it’s tough to dispute that Luis Suarez is the most clutch of the three forwards.

Suarez has now scored eight goals in eight Champions League appearances. He scored the winner at home to Bayer Leverkusen in the group stage on Sept. 29, he struck in a 1-1 draw at Roma, and now the Uruguayan is responsible for yet another comeback victory.

Messi and Neymar have produced some decisive moments, but Suarez is Barca’s leading scorer in the Champions League and has been involved in more goals (11) than his South American teammates.

Suarez is the quintessential poacher. Even when he’s having a quiet match by his standards, he can rise from the grass like a rattlesnake and strike before the defenders even realize what is happening around them.

Case in point with both of the goals on Tuesday. Jordi Alba mis-hits a shot, Suarez is standing alone, it bounces off him and past goalkeeper Jan Oblak. The ex-Liverpool striker then takes advantage of Diego Godin’s missed header and finishes calmly to clinch the victory.

If there is one player who has transformed the club since Luis Enrique was hired as coach, it is Suarez.

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