Atlético travelled to the Camp Nou on Saturday night, only to receive a thumping by the hands of a magical Barcelona.
Tiago hit the crossbar for Atleti early on, but the match was soon decided by the Blaugrana who toyed with their opponents for the rest of the night.
Gregorio Manzano made some surprising changes to his starting line-up. Despite conceding just one goal in our previous eight matches, he decided to drastically change our defensive line.
He introduced Antonio López and Diego Godín, who came in for Álvaro Domínguez and Filipe. Atlético was also without right back Sílvio.
It remains doubtful whether any defence would have been able to stop Barcelona, but the performance by our back four on call tonight was shameful to say the least.
In the ninth minute Luis Perea completely missed a ball played over the top by Xavi, and David Villa immediately made the most of Barça’s first chance. He cut inside, faked a shot and slotted the ball past Thibaut Courtois.
Some minutes later Antonio López was caught by surprise when another diagonal ball was played in behind our defence, but Pedro shot wide.
Soon after, Barcelona did double their lead. Pedro played a one-two through Atlético’s defence and the ball ended up at Messi’s feet. Courtois did well to stop the Argentine’s effort, but the ball bounced off Miranda and comically ended up in the back of our net.
In the 26th minute the entire team switched off when Messi was allowed to skip past three players unchallenged. The World Player of the Year then beat Courtois at the near post to make it 3-0 to the home side.
Just before the break Fabregas almost scored a magnificent lob from 40 yards out, but the ball bounced off the crossbar.
At the start of the second half Manzano tried to repair the damage by making a double substitution, but Barcelona continued to dominate while Atleti struggled to reach striker Falcao.
Thibaut Courtois managed to prevent a fourth goal, by keeping out opportunities for Messi and Villa. Atleti were at the mercy of Barcelona, but the Catalans turned down the tempo in the second half and picked their moments.
After being brought down with a rash challenge by Perea, Messi curled a free kick just wide of the post. It was a prelude to his masterpiece in the 78th minute. After skipping past several Atlético midfielders, Messi dribbled inside the box and left Courtois without a chance by slotting the ball in the far corner with a low shot.
Despite all the offensive players that were brought on, Atleti never troubled Victor Valdés. The only time the goalkeeper was called upon was when he rushed out to prevent Adrián from reaching to a splicing pass. The ball fell before Gabi, but his shot went just wide off the post. At the other end Xavi’s volley was off target.
In the added time Lionel Messi completed his hat-trick. He set up a short combination with David Villa and scored his eighth goal of the season through the legs of Courtois.
The goalkeeper became the seventh Atlético ‘keeper to be beaten by Lionel Messi, who scored the 17th goal of his career against us.
Atlético will have to regroup, because on Thursday the squad travels to Rennes for our second match in Group I of the Europa League.
Line-up: Courtois; Perea, Miranda, Godín, López; Tiago (“79 Adrián), Mario (“46 Arda), Gabi; Reyes (“46 Salvio), Falcao and Diego.
Goals: 1-0 Villa (“13); 2-0 Miranda (o.g.)(“16); 3-0 Messi (“26); 4-0 Messi (“78); 5-0 Messi (“91)