As the substitutes were more impactful than most of the starters, these are the ratings from each Barcelona player in Tuesday’s tight win over Athletic Club de Bilbao.
Barcelona sealed the three points against Athletic Club de Bilbao with a 1–0 win as the second half proved to be completely contradictory to the one on Friday Seville. While Setién could have done better with his starting XI, his substitutions were absolutely key, allowing his side to reign supreme in a crucial clash.
Marc-André ter Stegen: 7/10
As imposing as ever between the sticks. Marc-André ter Stegen was rarely forced to make any demanding saved as the defence did most of the dirty work for the German international. Nevertheless, credits must be given to him for his incredible composure and delightful distribution. A remarkable fifth clean sheet in a row.
Gerard Piqué: 7.5/10
Gerard Piqué was a brick wall in defence and had no intentions of letting Athletic’s nifty forwards slip past him. Piqué’s impact on the game was unequalled as he made several admirable plays from the back. Although he seemed slightly worked up in the closing stages of the game, Gerard was successfully able to complete the 90 minutes.
Fifth clean sheet in a row for Barcelona | Photo by Pau Barrena / AFP via Getty Images
Clément Lenglet 7.5/10
Just another day at the office for Barcelona’s diligent defender. Clément Lenglet was a menacing figure in all departments, winning five out of six aerial duels and two out of three ground duels. The Frenchman played the ball out from the back comfortably, helping his side attain an optimal result.
Nélson Semedo: 7/10
As opposed to his game against Sevilla, Nélson Semedo was comparatively less lively and influential in attack. Even so, his bursts on the right hand side during the first half allowed Barcelona to find quick openings, which they frequently failed to utilise. After proceedings, the Portuguese sat deeper to defend his side’s lead.
Jordi Alba: 7/10
Athletic Club’s compressed defence restricted Jordi Alba from finding the spaces he normally is accustomed to taking, but, nonetheless, his contribution moving upfield was visibly supportive. Added to that, he made a couple of decent blocks and interceptions on the defensive end. The Spaniard seems to be continuing his fine form.
Sergio Busquets: 7/10
Although Sergio Busquets seemed to be Barcelona’s best midfielder in the first half, his performance evidently deteriorated after proceedings. Considering the veteran has been playing games with such consistency, fatigue and tiredness may be influencing his performances. Still, his crucial block to deny Iñaki Williams from scoring early on in the game was commendable to say the least.
Arturo Vidal: 6/10
Chilean workhorse Arturo Vidal had a relatively silent night in midfield, losing possession often and unable to make a great deal of impact in the final third. After being a regular member of the first team, Arturo also seemed to have been a victim of sluggishness on the ball. However, credit must be given to him for being ever so dynamic with his pressing.
Arthur Melo: 5.5/10
Arthur Melo came into this game with high hopes, but couldn’t quite live up to fans’ expectations as he was equitably inexpressive during Barcelona’s build-ups. With the continuous rumours linking him with a move to Juventus, the Brazilian needs to regain his spot in the team. In addition, Arthur failed to progress the ball forward and innovate, which substitute Riqui Puig excelled in doing.
“We will talk to Arthur to focus on what should be focused on. Rumors affect any player and I imagine that this is what’s happening. We need all players and Arthur is included in that list”
Lionel Messi: 7/10
Argentine captain Lionel Messi didn’t have the most daunting performance in attack as he failed to find the back of the net, missing some convenient opportunities. Despite his ineffectiveness in front of goal, he still recorded his 250th assist and displayed his unmatched dribbling ability. A decent outing for Messi just before his birthday, but the long awaited 700th career goal is pending.
Luis Suárez: 5/10
A shadow of his former self. Luis Suárez had an underwhelming game in accordance to his standards. He regularly missed good opportunities to score, while also preferred to ignore Antoine Griezmann’s runs in attack. If Barça intend to compete for the title, Suárez would need to rediscover his form.
Antoine Griezmann: 6.5/10
Antoine Griezmann exhibited a tireless and indefatigable performance, trying to slip into prominent scoring positions and contributing to the host’s pressing. He was unfortunate to have received less support in attack, but the former Atlético de Madrid star was unquestionably far more influential and sacrificed than Suárez, despite often not providing the width desired.
Riqui Puig: 8/10
Getting the most minutes in a La Liga game this season for him, Riqui Puig stole the show. Introduced in the 55th minute, he was lively, mobile, aggressive, purposeful and extremely smart to detect what each situation required and to be very involved in the pressing. By completely changing the flow of the game, the young midfielder proved that he is ready for more.
Iván Rakitić: 8/10
As has been the norm since the return of football, Iván Rakitić was in great form against Athletic as he replaced Sergio Busquets in the holding midfield role. In spite of his deeper position, he pressed, recovered the ball, stepped into the opposing goal and scored the vital winner after an assist from Lionel Messi. Rakitić seems to be back.
“Iván Rakitić delivered a masterclass. He understands football really well”
Ansu Fati: 7/10
Coming on for Antoine Griezmann, Ansu Fati demonstrated once again that Barcelona needs more dynamic wingers like him. While his impact was not as noticeable as the one from the previous two substitutes, the 17-year-old provided personality and verticality, even enjoying a big chance just ten seconds after coming on.
Martin Braithwaite: N/A
Predicted Barcelona lineup against Sevilla — Pedri, Mingueza to start
Barcelona are on a tightrope once again. This time, however, the cup, which is usually neglected as the least important target is the primary objective of Ronald Koeman’s men.
Just under 72 hours of facing Lopetegui’s men at the Ramon Sanchez Pijzuan, the Catalans welcome the side home to host the second leg of the semi-final of the Copa del Rey. The Blaugranas trail by two goals, which amps up the graveness of the situation. Koeman and co. need to score at least three goals to go through, not to mention that they cannot afford to concede. An away goal to Sevilla would be a wound too deep for the Blaugranas to recover from.
In many respects, this is the most important game of the season for the hosts. While it could seal a place in the Cup final, more importantly, it would provide the side with some much needed psychological reinforcement. It would send down the belief that they, too, can be on the right side of remontadas. And it would instil the confidence to repeat the feat against PSG, where they need to score five goals. Here is how Barcelona can lineup against Sevilla, with fans almost inclined towards the 3-5-2 again.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s injury in warm-up scared fans across the globe. However, the German wall started the game and finished it without much trouble. While the same opposition did not ruffle too many feathers at the weekend, tomorrow may be a whole different ballgame. With Sevilla knowing that an away goal could be enough to see them through, Ter Stegen will have a big night ahead.
Ronald Araujo’s return from injury did not last long, as he was taken off once again owing to a sprain. It is unlikely that he will be risked on Wednesday.
Koeman would ideally not look to tamper around with the winning formula, moreover against the same team. Gerard Pique will the ideal option to start through the centre at the back. The World Cup winner has been a silent rock since his return. Given how much the Spaniard is usually criticized, a silent period from the media implied fantastic performances.
Oscar Mingueza will start at the right of the defence. The youngster has been wonderful defensively, with a slowly improved passing range and spatial awareness. Given Araujo’s injury, his chance seems to be set.
The Spanish duo will be complemented by Clement Lenglet, who will start at left centre-back. The Frenchman once again had a rather poor outing midweek. However being part of a working formula, the coach may not want to tamper with things.
A three man defense means a five man midfield. An utter domination of the middle of the park, while spreading the play to both wings equally. At the Camp Nou again, that will be the norm.
Sergino Dest and Jordi Alba will continue as wingbacks on the right and left sides, respectively. With the three-person defence, they will have their defensive duties cut short. Once again, as on Saturday, they will look to be the threat on the wings.
Sergio Busquets will continue as the anchor, following up a textbook performance against the same opposition. The Spanish International was crucial in recovering the ball for the Catalans whilst also opening up latent channels in the attack.
Frenkie de Jong has now earned the right to be placed at the elite class of midfielders at the moment. The renewed version of the Dutchman has been almost unstoppable for oppositions. He will again start on Wednesday given the weight of the clash.
Pedri was supposedly ruled out for 2 weeks, however, through a miracle, he is back training with the group within 48 hours! The player is determined to participate in the game against Sevilla, knowing well the weight riding on it. Pedri’s attitude just cannot be faulted. If at all the Canary Islander is indeed fit, he will return to his permanent starting spot.
The front two in attack combined beautifully to score the opening goal on Saturday, and nothing will change for the Cup game.
Ousmane Dembele‘s pace was one of Sevilla’s biggest troubles at the Ramon Sanchez Pijzuan. The Frenchman destroyed the high line of Lopetegui’s side. He will undoubtedly start.
Lionel Messi has always been Sevilla’s Achilles heel. The Red-and-white of Seville are the Argentine’s favourite target, and he added a goal and an assist to that amazing tally at the weekend. The side seemed to have no answers to the Catalan captain’s guile and genius. If Leo turns it on again, Barcelona are surely going straight into the final.
Dembele · Messi
Alba · Pedri · Busquets · de Jong · Dest
Lenglet · Pique · Mingueza
One has to start with the man of the moment. Ilaix Moriba was given his second chance of the season midweek and responded by providing his second assist. His physicality matched the opponents like for like, and his comfort on the ball further destabilized the defence. He would be a crucial cog.
Antoine Griezmann was once again not used in the 2-0 win, however, any desperate situation demanding a goal could see the Frenchman subbed in.
Martin Braithwaite could be an asset on the night, too, as his growing chemistry seems to be reaping rewards. The Dane has evolved into much more than a traditional no. 9, and he would be an option for the coach on the latter half.