After winning their first game of the year, Barcelona went to Bilbao to play Athletic Club. Last weekend, the Basque club sacked Gaizka Garitano and got one of the best Spanish managers in Marcelino. Ronald Koeman had to make the right decisions: Ousmane Dembélé started alongside Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi, together with the usual Barça midfield and defence. Below, you can find our match review of the halves.
As Athletic Bilbao got the ball rolling against Barcelona, disaster struck quick when Clement Lenglet and Ronald Araujo’s ill-disciplined positioning helped Inaki Williams run through the Barcelona defence. The Spaniard made the most of his chance, and Barcelona were already trailing in the second minute.
However, Ronald Koeman’s system looked cohesive, and with Frenkie de Jong and Pedri running the midfield, Barcelona got their equaliser soon enough. Lionel Messi spotted de Jong making a deep run. The Dutchman reacted quickly to a deep cross, playing in a volley into the box where an unmarked Pedri headed the ball into the open net, hugely down to Unai Simon’s poor positioning.
Ousmane Dembele ran the show for the next couple of minutes and would have had an assist if not for Simon’s heroics against Antoine Griezmann. Nevertheless, a move started by the Frenchman resulted in Barcelona’s lead as Messi and Pedri combined to catch the Bilbao defence off their mark. The Argentine slotted the ball into an open net, and the San Mames scoreboard was forced to read 2-1 in favour of the Catalans.
In the second half, Marcelino tried to get something from his first game in charge of the Lions. Athletic Club started the half just like Huesca did in the last fixture. They got early chances resulting in nothing.
Ultimately, Messi got everything right. First, after some great movement from Dembélé, Messi’s shot cannoned off the post. The Argentine would get another chance minutes later after Antoine Griezmann’s astute play. Messi found the crossbar, but his shot was too powerful. Koeman’s men were 3-1 up before the locals could get a lifeline. Muniain capitalised on a late Messi mistake and scored a consolation goal. After a superb performance from the captain, he jeopardised his side’s lead. He took it upon himself to lose time in the last minutes, but Barça did not concede.
Koeman can look back at this display with confidence. Barcelona went behind early but annihilated their counterparts to get past Villarreal and Real Sociedad in the league. If players like Pedri, de Jong, Dembélé and Messi can keep their mesmerising form, PSG will not want to play them come February. Finally, the coach deserves a lot of credit after a lacklustre start. Barcelona won two difficult games in a row and will want to continue against Granada.
That brings an end to our review of the Athletic Club 2-3 Barcelona game.
A graphical representation of our starting line-up:
Rayo Vallecano 1-2 Barcelona: Match Review
As Barcelona continued their quest to win the King’s Cup, Ronald Koeman experimented. Riqui Puig, to everyone’s surprise, started after scoring his first goal with his boyhood side on the weekend.
Barcelona had an unlucky start to the night with their captain back. The Catalans had many chances and could have won a penalty early on. Francisco Trincão was taken down in the box, but the lack of VAR denied him of a spot-kick.
Lionel Messi, back after two games of suspended, sent a cross right on Ronald Araujo’s head but Stole Dimitrievski was too good. Frenkie de Jong then found the crossbar following a superb cross from Junior Firpo. The midfielder’s effort on the woodwork would follow with Puig, who had a golden chance. Trincão scuffed a shot in front of the Rayo keeper, and the Spaniard had the ball in front of the net. The youngster’s shot ended on the goalpost, and Barça would remain goalless.
Overall, not the worst performance from the Catalans. Sure, they could have scored two or three had they not lacked some finishing, but they thoroughly dominated Rayo away from home.
The first half display did not dishearten Rayo. The locals continued their relentless counter-attacks against a slow Barça team.
The visitors were so slow that Rayo capitalised. Álvaro García danced past Clément Lenglet. Neto could not handle the ball and Francisco García, a Real Madrid loanee, put his side in front. Barcelona had to be rescued, and on came Jordi Alba, Ousmane Dembélé and Pedri.
Neither of the three starters were needed to get the leveller, however. Instead, a work of art from three starters levelled the game for the hopeless Catalans. De Jong found Antoine Griezmann’s run and the Frenchman’s pass made it easy for Messi to score in an empty net. Messi then repaid the Dutchman with a superb chip to Alba, who found the Dutchman lurking in acres of space. Another tap-in put Barça in front for the first time in the game.
Watch De Jong’s goal after a brilliant play from Messi:
Messi creates the play and De Jong finishes it 🔥 pic.twitter.com/jToTIkq2hH— MessiTeam (@Lionel10Team) January 27, 2021
All in all, after a desperate start, Barcelona advanced. Off to the quarters for a side that will go back home on the 31st against Athletic.
Barcelona: Neto; Mingueza, Araujo, Lenglet, Junior (68′ Pedri); De Jong, Busquets, Riqui Puig (68′ Alba); Trincao (68′ Dembélé), Messi, Griezmann
Rayo Vallecano: Dimitrievski; Fernandez (84′ Advincula), Saveljich, Marugan, Martos (84′ Camacho); Comesana; Martin, Trejo, Montiel (56′ Rivera), Garcia; Qasmi