Barcelona 4-0 Athletic Club: Match Review
After two dominant wins on the road, Barcelona returned to Camp Nou to host Athletic Bilbao in a crucial La Liga fixture. The Basque side had defeated the Blaugranas just over a month ago, knocking them out of the Copa del Rey. Now, it was Xavi’s turn to guide his team to their revenge against strenuous opposition.
Jordi Alba’s suspension meant that a novel solution needed to be found on the night. The manager responded by deploying Sergino Dest and Dani Alves at left-back and right-back respectively.
Frenkie de Jong was given a rest, and Gavi took his place in midfield. Upfront, the trio of Ferran Torres, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Adama Traore started once again.
The hosts started the game with their foot on the gas while the heavily rotated Basque outfit lacked confidence. While Barcelona pressed high, Athletic Club spent the opening period struggling to absorb pressure and resorted to haphazard clearances from uncomfortable positions.
Xavi’s tactics caught Marcelino off guard, as Alves often dropped into a midfield role, and Traore dominated the final third on the right side. On the other flank, it was Dest who maintained the pressure.
Barcelona had their first big chance in the 32nd minute when Aubameyang played Torres into space. The winger volleyed a shot, but it was saved by Unai Simon.
Just five minutes later, Xavi’s men took the lead. The goal came from a set-piece taken by Alves. Gerard Pique’s strong header hit the crossbar, and Aubameyang was there to poach the rebound. With this goal, the Gabonese striker made it five goals in three games. Heading into half-time, Barcelona had a one-goal lead over the Copa del Rey semi-finalists.
The second half started how the first ended, with Barcelona in the driving seat. It was, however, from the hour mark that The Catalans’ attacking waves got stronger. In the 60th minute, Gavi was forcefully taken down just outside the box. The resultant free-kick was slammed into the wall by Torres.
Frenkie de Jong and Ousmane Dembele came on in the 67th minute and made an immediate impact on the field. The team were visibly rejuvenated after the substitutions.
In the 73rd minute, Dembele wove his magic on the field amidst cries and whistles. The Frenchman received the ball in a wide position outside the box and smashed an unstoppable shot past Unai Simon from a tight angle.
Memphis Depay returned to action when he came on in the 82nd minute for Adama Traore. Xavi also brought on Luuk de Jong and Nico for the last ten minutes.
Inaki Williams had a chance to score in the 85th minute, but ter Stegen’s reflexes were fast enough to deny the striker.
Pedri sent a great ball to Dembele in the 89th minute after a piece of individual magic. The Frenchman put in a perfect cross for Luuk de Jong, who headed the ball into the net. Memphis Depay made the score 4-0 in the last minute of the game when he got on the end of another cross from Dembele.
The 4-0 win over Athletic Club now takes Barcelona to fourth place in the league standings. The team are one point behind Real Betis with a game in hand.
Full time: Barcelona 4-0 Athletic Club