Sometimes collective excellence is just not enough. Atletico Madrid competed as usual against Barcelona, but found themselves two down early on and were unable to come back despite a rousing reaction in the second half.
On this occasion, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi were just too good.
Atletico knocked Barcelona out of the Champions League last season at the quarter-final stage in a memorable victory for the Rojiblancos over two legs. However, that came after Messi, Suarez and Neymar had been away on international duty. It was a tired trident - and that contributed to Atleti's win. Had the three been fit and fresh, things would probably have been different.
They were in this match. Atletico's famous defensive discipline has been lacking in recent times, but Diego Simeone's side usually lift themselves for games against Barca. Nevertheless, they could do nothing to stop Suarez powering through their back line to open the scoring after seven minutes and, a little later in the half, Messi blasted home a thunderous effort to make it two.
How do you stop that? It is very difficult and, ultimately, it is those details that make the difference at this level. And, for all their quality, Atletico do not possess a player like Messi, Suarez or Neymar.
Antoine Griezmann is the closest and it was he who brought the home side back in it in the second half. And he could also have levelled not long after that in a spirited fightback which almost brought Simeone's side a draw to take to Camp Nou next Wednesday in the second leg.
Barca, meanwhile, were without Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta. The team have struggled in the absence of those two at times, but with such superb strikes from Suarez and Messi, control in the midfield was not even necessary.
Indeed, Messi was in monster mode. Surrounded by rivals throughout, the Argentine embarked on numerous runs and always appeared to find some space where there looked to be none - and that relieved pressure on the rest of his team-mates.
Atletico pushed for an equaliser in what will probably be the last ever Copa del Rey game they will play at the Vicente Calderon, although there is talk that the final will be scheduled at the stadium before it is demolished in the summer.
Given this scoreline, however, Atleti are unlikely to be in it. Substitute Fernando Torres changed the game for the home team after his introduction at the interval, but Simeone's side ultimately came up short.
The Argentine coach has had five fantastic seasons in charge at the Vicente Calderon and is expected to lead the team into their new stadium before leaving in 2018 when his contract expires.
He has won five trophies in that time, but is without a title at Atleti since 2014 and there is the sensation now that he has perhaps taken them as far as he can. And there is no shame in that either - because at the very, very top, it is the very, very best players that make the difference. And Barcelona have the best of them all.