As Barcelona prepare to face Jose Luis Mendillibar’s SD Eibar, join us as we reminisce the Catalans’ 3-0 victory over their Basque counterparts on their debut La Liga season in this episode of The Rewind.
Despite being under new management, Fútbol Club Barcelona were enjoying one of their best starts ever to a La Liga season. By matchday seven Luis Enriqué had taken the Catalans to fourth on the league table, with 19 points from a possible 21, and were up against a new face in the Primera División, Gaizka Garitano’s Eibar.
La Liga’s self-named “bravest club” had enjoyed a relatively good start to life in the first division, standing tenth on the log and with ten points ahead of their trip to Catalunya. The odds were very much against their favour, and they succumbed to a 3-0 loss in the iconic Camp Nou thanks to goals from Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr, and Xavi Hernández.
Alves · Pique · Mathieu · Alba
Xavi · Mascherano · Roberto
Pedro · Messi · Neymar
Bodeva · Lillo · Ekiza · Albentosa · Abraham
Errasta · Lana · Garcia
Capa · Berrjon
Lionel Messi and Dani Alves kicked things off in another picture-perfect show of their telepathic synchronisation. The two combined seamlessly just outside the box, with the Brazilian lacerating Eibar’s five-man backline with a through ball and found Messi, whose shot was cleverly stopped by Xabi Irureta.
The Argentine nearly got on the scoresheet just moments later, however, despite the quick passing between himself and Xavi, his curling effort went centimetres wide off the mark.
He then turned creator soon after, although, to his dismay, his cross glanced just over an onrushing Neymar’s head as it went out for a goal kick. On the other end, given Dani Alves’ offensive nature, Eibar exploited the spaces in behind through Ander Capa, though despite having gone past Claudio Bravo and with the goalmouth gaping wide, his shot went only as far as the side netting.
Desperation crept in, however it did barely anything to waver the hosts’ composure. Akin to a surgeon with his scalpel, they carefully dissected Eibar’s tight-knit defence with a passing phase reminiscent of the Barca of old, however despite their efforts, they simply could not open the scoring as Xavi’s low driven effort was met with an equally brilliant save by Irureta.
Pedro Rodríguez attempted a cross into the 18-yard box into Messi, but despite making appropriate contact, the ball fell right into the goalkeeper’s grateful arms. On the break, a slight miscommunication between Dani Alves and Gerard Piqué left Saúl Berrjón one on one with Bravo, however, intending to maintain his spotless record in goal, the Chilean made a fantastic block to keep the scores level heading into the break.
Going into half-time Barça were by far the superior side, although despite the rarity in their chances, Eibar produced the more clear-cut opportunities of the game.
Half Time: Barcelona 0-0 Eibar
Following Sergi Roberto’s injury right at the start of the second period, Luis Enriqué brought on Andrés Iniesta, and from then on, the game took a whole new dimension. His first involvement in the game — indirectly — led to Barça’s opener.
Having combined well with Xavi on the edge of the box, Barça’s outgoing legend played a pass and go with Messi, who instinctively threaded the ball like a string through the eye of a needle past the deep block to Xavi, who then chipped the ball into the back of the net to make it 1-0. It was the Argentine’s seventh assist in eight matches, and what a pass it was!
Iniesta then played one of his trademark long balls into Pedro, however, his miscontrol tightened the angle of the shot, and Irureta was on hand to make a comfortable save. Moments later Messi sought after his opener brilliantly, only to essentially caging himself into a space smaller than a telephone box, forcing his goalbound effort only as far as the side netting.
Having scored a whopping four goals against Japan during the international break, Neymar got his fifth goal of the week. Following Dani Alves’ sumptuous cross into the box, his compatriot let out a sumptuous volley which, despite Irureta’s best efforts, was too hot to handle. The goal was enough to put the game beyond a struggling Eibar’s reach, and their golden boy would put the final nail in the coffin just two minutes later.
For all his efforts, Messi finally got the goal he so richly deserved just over halfway into the second half with one of his trademark finishes. Midway into Eibar’s territory, he went head to head with their defenders, eventually finding Neymar lying in wait on the edge of the box. The Brazilian then laid the ball on a plate for his South American counterpart, who firmly struck the ball into the back of the net to kill off the game. All hits, no misses for the Messi – Neymar duo.
It was his 250th goal in the Spanish top flight, and what a moment to score it! With the Clásico just a week away, this goal left him with only two to equal Telmo Zarra as La Liga’s all time top goalscorer, at just 27 years of age, and with a chance to rub salt into his fierce enemies’ wounds in the Bernabeu no less.
The victory took Barca to first on the log, earning Claudio Bravo his eighth successive clean sheet and leaving Barca without having conceded a goal to any opposition for twelve successive hours in the domestic league.
Barcelona will be hoping to replicate this performance as they host Eibar tomorrow in the hope of continuing on the winning path.
Full Time: Barcelona 3-0 Eibar
The Rewind: Barcelona vs Athletic Bilbao 3-1, 2015 Copa del Rey Final
As Barça prepare to take on Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final, join us as we look back at the last time these two teams played each other in the final.
Barcelona will be looking for their sixth Copa del Rey title in ten years as they face off against Athletic Bilbao later tonight. It is the third time the two sides have played each other in the final this decade, with Barça winning both previous encounters. Nevertheless, Athletic Bilbao have had the upper hand against Barcelona recently in cup competitions. Earlier this year, they defeated them in the Supercup final, and in 2020, they knocked them out of the Copa del Rey.
Barcelona’s 2014/15 was one of their greatest seasons of all time. With signings like Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic to replenish the squad alongside new manager Luis Enrique, the Blaugrana went on to win the treble. By the time they faced Athletic Bilbao in the 2015 Copa del Rey final, they had already won La Liga and were set to play in the Champions League final the next week against Juventus.
Barça’s run in the Copa del Rey was nothing short of sensational, scoring 27 goals in eight matches as they went to their fourth final in five years. This included an 8-1 win against Huesca and a thrilling 3-2 victory against Atlético Madrid.
Athletic Bilbao were in their second final in four years. They played Barça in the 2012 final, losing 3-0 in Pep Guardiola’s farewell match. The Basque side were led by Ernesto Valverde, who would eventually take over Barcelona in 2017.
Luis Enrique lined up Barcelona with his favoured starting eleven:
Dani Alves · Pique · Mascherano · Alba
Rakitic · Busquets · Iniesta
Messi · Suarez · Neymar
Ernesto opted for his preferred 4-4-2 shape with the following:
Bustinza · Etxeita · Laporte · Balenziaga
Iraola · San José · Beñat · Mikel Rico
Aduriz · Inaki Williams
Barcelona started off by controlling possession and trying to break down Bilbao’s robust 4-4-2 shape, but their opponents were constant threats off counter-attacks. The Catalans would build up from the back with Gerard Piqué and Javier Mascherano, particularly looking for Lionel Messi or Dani Alves as outlets. They heavily focused on stretching Bilbao out and playing down the flanks.
Around 9 minutes in, ter Stegen was careless in the box and almost gave away possession, nearly gifting Bilbao a prime scoring opportunity. Nonetheless, in typical Barça fashion under Luis Enrique, they restored composure and, with a few quick passes, broke through Bilbao’s press. Jordi Alba progressed the ball forward and found a wide-open Iniesta. With space, the Spaniard passed to Messi, who sent a signature ball into the box to Neymar. The Brazilian had a brilliant first-time finish, but the goal was ruled offside.
Only a minute later, Suarez was one-on-one in the box but the shot parried off Bilbao’s keeper.
19 minutes in, the crowd of nearly 100,000 fans witnessed history. Dani Alves gave Messi a short pass near the halfway line. The Argentine got past his first defender, then encountered a cul-de-sac of three. With only three touches, he left them in the dust. Now near the outside of the box, he cut past another and fired the ball into the near post, scoring one of the best goals ever.
As the commentating duo of Kevin Keatings and Rob Palmer put it: “It’s one of the great Copa del Rey final goals! From the magical, mercurial Lionel Messi.”
1-0 to the Blaugrana.
It was a lead that was bound to come, but nobody could have expected such a goal.
In the 25th minute, Messi picked the ball off of a defender and set Suarez down the line; he had Neymar wide open in the box, but the pass was intercepted at the last minute. The Catalans were relentless, and Bilbao could not stop them. At this point in the game, they had over 70% of possession and more importantly, they were dangerous with it. Time after time, they had opportunities in the box: Neymar had a one-on-one and Suarez only nearly missed a cross from Alba.
With only ten minutes left in the half, there was chaos outside Bilbao’s box. Ivan Rakitic threaded a ball into the penalty area to Suarez; in a selfless move, the Uruguayan crossed it to Neymar, who doubled Barcelona’s lead. It was a well deserved second goal as Barca were simply running circles around their opponents.
Half Time: Barcelona 2-0 Athletic Bilbao
The second half was more of a balanced game, but neither side could control it. Bilbao kept the Catalans on the back foot for much of the half, preventing them from having typical long spells of possession. The Basque side made some threats but nothing came to fruition.
Ten minutes in, Andres Iniesta came off for Xavi Hernandez, who would play in his penultimate game for the club and his last in the Camp Nou.
As is the case with a squad that talented, Barcelona could create chances out of nothing. In the 72nd minute, Neymar and Dani Alves had a quick one-two that sent the right back down the wings. With his eagle-eyed passing, he sent a low cross into the box that found Messi. The Argentine hit it into the back of the net.
All of a sudden it was 3-0 and despite Bilbao’s improvement, they could not contain the Blaugrana.
Barça made their final changes a few minutes later: Jeremy Mathieu and Pedro Rodriquez for Jordi Alba and Luis Suarez.
In the 78th minute, Bilbao sent a ball into the box, and starlet Inaki Williams headed it into the back of the net. It was a deserving goal for the Basque outfit, but ultimately, it was too little too late.
The final 10 minutes or so were a back and forth affair, but Barça did more than enough to secure their lead.
The match was chippy and full of hard tackles all throughout, but that reached a climax when near the end of the game, Neymar attempted to rainbow flick past a defender. Bilbao did not react kindly to it as they pushed Neymar to the ground, interpreting it as unnecessary showboating. There was a resulting scuffle between both sides, but nothing too egregious.
In the last minute, Barça won a free kick, but Xavi hit the post.
As the full-time whistle blew, the Catalans won their record 27th Copa del Rey title and were one trophy away from winning the Treble.
Full Time: Barcelona 3-1 Athletic Bilbao
Athletic Bilbao fought valiantly throughout the game but Barça’s quality was unmatched that entire campaign. They put on a magnificent show in front of the Camp Nou, highlighted by Messi’s brilliant goal. One can only hope for a similar performance in the 2021 final.