Connect with us

Barça News

Barcelona hold 0-0 stalemate against Athletic Bilbao – Match Review

Published

on

Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Barcelona returned to San Mames on Sunday night for the first time since their painful Copa del Rey elimination. Going up against Ernesto Valverde’s in-form Athletic Club, the Azulgranas always had their work cut out for them.

With Real Madrid and Girona both dropping points on the matchday, Barcelona had the chance to jump to second place with a win and close the gap with Los Blancos. Yet, it was always clear that the game at San Mames was going to be one of the most difficult away fixtures of the season.

Xavi opted for a versatile, yet solid XI on the night against Los Leones. The defence was unchanged with Ronald Araujo, Pau Cubarsi, Joao Cancelo and Jules Kounde all starting in front of Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.

Andreas Christensen continued as the pivot for the Blaugranas in what is the new normal. He was joined by Ilkay Gundogan and Frenkie de Jong in midfield.

Robert Lewandowski started as the team’s lone striker at San Mames, flanked by Pedri and Raphinha to his left and right respectively.

Barcelona got the clash at San Mames underway late on Sunday night, immediately giving away the initial momentum to the hosts. Ernesto Valverde’s men took control in the opening minutes, although their possession did not build up to any opportunities.

As early as the fifth minute, the Catalans began showing some threat on goal. Joao Cancelo and Robert Lewandowski combined well to create half a chance but were denied by the defence.

As the clock ticked past the ten-minute mark, Barcelona appeared to be easing into their element. However, their domination on the ball through the first half was sporadic and lacked the consistency it had in the previous game.

The battle in midfield intensified as the minutes passed, with both defences not allowing the other team any sight on goal. High pressure from both ends and there appeared to be no stability in terms of possession.

The 23rd minute brought Barcelona’s first important moment of the clash, albeit not in a good sense. Frenkie de Jong landed awkwardly on his ankle after an aerial dual and could not continue the game. He was taken off the field in a vehicle and immediately replaced by Fermin Lopez.

By the 30-minute mark, both teams had seen little to no sight of goal. In fact, not a single shot on target had been taken at that point in the game, justifying the goalless deadlock.

Barcelona saw their first big chance of the game in the 31st minute after Los Leones’ goalkeeper Unai Simon blundered with his pass. His poor distribution saw the ball fall kindly for Cancelo who attempted to lob the ball over the top. Unfortunately, Athletic Club were able to recover.

One minute away from the 45-minute mark, Barcelona had their second player down injured in midfield – this time Pedri Gonzalez. The youngster went down in pain in what appeared to be yet another hamstring blow, and Barcelona’s night in terms of injuries went from bad to worse.

Xavi replaced the injured midfielder with Lamine Yamal in the 45th minute, and not much came from the six added minutes. Heading into half-time, the Blaugranas were two injuries down and without any solid chance on goal, but the same could be said about the hosts who were equally uninspiring.

Athletic Club started the second half brighter, looking to shoot at the drop of a hat. Inaki Williams took his attempt on goal in just the 47th minute while Gomez followed it up with a second strike minutes later.

The 57th moment saw Barcelona unlock the Bilbao defence for the first time in the half. Gundogan and Cancelo combined well to feel Lewy who was not offside, but the striker’s finish was blocked well by Paredes.

At the other end, Gomez attempted a bold overhead kick but only presented a tame shot for Ter Stegen to grab.

Lamine Yamal was taken down in the opposition box in the 66th minute at San Mames, attracting claims for a penalty for Barcelona. VAR, however, denied the spot-kick.

Photo by ANDER GILLENEA/AFP via Getty Images

As the half progressed, Bilbao appeared to be the team with the more productive possession spells. The hosts repeatedly looked to crank open the Catalan defence and found some good half chances that they could not capitalise on.

Raphinha, Pau Cubarsi and Andreas Christensen came off for Joao Felix, Inigo Martinez and Oriol Romeu in the 75th minute.

Felix’s shot and the subsequent ball from Cancelo in the 81st minute were both underwhelming. Both teams pushed equally in the final ten minutes, yet not seeing any glaring chances in front of the goal.

In the end, the game boiled down to a goalless draw with both teams sharing the spoils. However, it also meant that Barcelona remain third in the league standings and did not capitalise on Real Madrid’s slip-up.

Trending Articles