SPAIN: João Félix earns Xavi praise after haunting Atletico again

Atletico Madrid 0-3 Barcelona

Once again João Félix came back to haunt parent club Atletico Madrid, scoring the opening goal as Barcelona cruised to a 3-0 victory at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Sunday evening.

Félix, who is on-loan at Barcelona from Atletico, produced the only goal when the sides met at Camp Nou in December. Having scored the first on Sunday, Félix has now scored 33% of his goals in La Liga this term against his long-term employers.

The goal at the Metropolitano was a vital one, giving Barca the lead after 38 minutes. The champions cut the Atletico defence apart with some slick football, which resulted in Robert Lewandowski cutting the ball back for Félix to sidefoot past Jan Oblak from close range. Polish striker Lewandowki added another shortly after the re-start and the win was sealed by Fermín López midway through the second period.

Speaking after the match, Barca boss Xavi was high in praise of his Portuguese forward. “He played a very good game, very important, especially when we didn’t have the ball,” Xavi said. “It was a game for him. He made a difference for us again.”

Félix faced a barrage of whistles from the home crowd during the evening, due to his perceived fallout with manager Diego Simeone and lack of commitment to the club, ahead of a reportedly acrimonious departure last winter. However, Félix believes there are misconceptions about his relationship with his former club.

People don’t know what happped here - Félix

“The people in the stands don’t know the things that happened here during the time I was there,” Félix said after the final whistle. “As you can see, what they say from outside that I get along badly with my former teammates is not true. As you could see, I stopped to talk to Lemar and Lino and they all hugged me, talked to me, asked how the family is, ask me how I was doing and so on. I have nothing against them nor they against me, the people outside clearly don’t know what happened here.

“I tried to enjoy the game as much as possible, I always like games against big teams, spicy games in which the fans provoke you a little more. I tried to help the team, get the three points, which is the most important thing. We played an almost perfect match, three goals away from home, in this stadium and against this team, which defends well, we know them, it was a perfect match. We did everything well, in defence, midfield and attack.”

The future of Félix will remain a source of much debate during the closing months of the season. The former Benfica man has scored six goals in La Liga, as Barcelona trail Real Madrid by eight points at the summit. A Champions League quarter-final clash with Paris Saint-Germain awaits next month – along with a trip to the Bernabeu to meet Madrid - with many feeling Félix must show more consistency during the run-in to earn a potentially expensive permanent move to Barca.

By @SeanGillen9