Athletic Club 0-1 Barcelona: Player and Manager Ratings
Athletic Club played hosts to Barcelona at the San Mames tonight as the Catalans looked to regain their nine-point lead at the top of the table. With Ronald Araujo suspended, Jules Kounde and Andreas Christensen started in central defence, with Sergi Roberto at right-back.
Xavi opted to go for a conventional 4-3-3, using Ferran Torres on the left. Therefore, Barcelona lost a ton of control in midfield, and the game was as chaotic as they come.
After 45 minutes of toil, though, Raphinha broke the deadlock for Barça with a sensational finish from his right. Sergio Busquets, too, registered his second assist in as many games.
Barcelona almost lost their clean sheet in the final few minutes as Inaki Williams scored, but the goal was ruled out due to a handball in the buildup.
The choice to switch to a conventional 4-3-3 against a team that presses as well as Athletic was a poor deciison. Subbing on Marcos Alonso against Inaki Williams was a poor decision. Not subbing out a clearly hurt de Jong was also an odd decision. Xavi needs to do better.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 8.5
Excellent with the ball at this feet, but as always came up with some clutch moments in the last ten minutes to maintain yet another clean sheet.
Sergi Roberto: 5
Retained possession well, but largely invisible. Had trouble dealing with Nico Williams in the first half and then Iker Munian in the second.
Jules Kounde: 8
Had some trouble growing into the game against Athletic’s pressure, but defended well in his preferred centre-back role. Came up with a huge clutch goal-line clearance in injury time.
Andreas Christensen: 7
Christensen was largely average in the first-half but followed that up with a clutch second-half display, preventing a fair few chances from Valverde’s men.
Alejandro Balde: 8
Was one of the few players that evaded the Athletic pressure with ease. Made some brilliant solo runs from deep and created a couple of goalscoring chances as well. Had a chance for himself, too, but did not release the trigger in time.
Had a few moments of elegance here and there but far from his best from Gavi. Has to be given credit for acting as one of the only outlets to escape pressure, though.
Sergio Busquets: 8
Had some problems growing into the game with the ball at his feet, but another brilliant defensive display from the captain, who has put in several impressive shifts recently. Got an assist as well.
Frenkie de Jong: 9
Noone better than de Jong in the first phase of build-up, and that was evident yet again today as he continued to drop behind Busquets to start attacks for Barça. Created a couple of chances with his quick thinking, but the man of the match in any case.
Another game, another winner for Raphinha, who was one of the best players for Barcelona tonight. Not only did he score the only goal of the game, but he was also brilliant in possession, and always resourceful.
Robert Lewandowski: 6
Lewandowski’s poor form in front of goal continues as he missed two solid chances to score.
Ferran Torres: 5.5
First man to be subbed out after an underwhelming performance.
Franck Kessie: 7
Did well to shuffle in midfield with Busquets and de Jong, protecting the base.
Marcos Alonso: 2
Was lucky that Inaki’s goal was cancelled otherwise Barcelona fans would have eaten him alive.