Talking points and observations from Barcelona 1-0 Athletic Bilbao

FC Barcelona vs Athletic Bilbao, La Liga 2019/20 (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)
FC Barcelona vs Athletic Bilbao, La Liga 2019/20 (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images) /

Ivan Rakitic strikes to gloss over another insipid performance from Barcelona.

Barcelona are well and truly running out of steam. They appeared hopelessly uninspired on the night and pulled a stinker yet again.

What should’ve realistically been another share of the spoils, turned into an undeserved night of triumph after Rakitic nonchalantly lobbed an effort into the far post following some great work by, surprise surprise, Lionel Messi.

The Catalans will regardless be content to take away all the three points at this juncture in the title race, however, such a poor showing will hardly lift the spirits in the camp ahead of the treacherous run-in over the next few weeks.

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They are provisionally ahead of Real Madrid once again, who can regain pole position later today against a relegation-battling Mallorca, whereas Athletic Bilbao remain rooted at 10th place.

Some key talking points from the Camp Nou:

Fati shows why he should start more

Barcelona were listless in the attack for a good 65 minutes until Ansu Fati came on. The 17-year old, who’s had a terrific breakthrough season, immediately regurgitated the hosts with his youthful flair and boisterous energy.

He showed some neat footwork, got into really good positions, and also linked up with Messi brilliantly. Fati almost set the skipper up for a late winner when he slalomed past two defenders inside the area and laid it off for the 33-year old.

The teen ace also completed 100% of his passes whilst also hitting the post once. He had more contribution in 35 minutes than what the nondescript Luis Suarez managed in 84, and once again reminded Quique Setien why he should play more regularly.

Busquets suspended for Celta, time for Puig to step up?

Sergio Busquets picked another yellow card on the night which rules him out of the daunting tip to the Balaidos at the weekend. So that means a rare opportunity for Riqui Puig to start.

Last night, he was subbed on just before the hour mark for the Juventus-bound Arthur and really impressed. The 20-year old was the key to impeding Bilbao with vital interceptions and also won back possession with crucial tackles.

Its really perplexing that someone as talented as Puig hasn’t started a game for the Catalans till now, but Setien might be forced to reconsider after this encouraging performance.

Iñaki Williams is redefining the concept of ‘fitness’

He may not have set the stage alight today, but this was the 150th consecutive game in La Liga for Williams – let that sink in first.

The Bilbao forward hasn’t missed out on a league clash even once since April 2016, having somehow steered clear of injuries in over four years. Now that’s some inhumane level of fitness right there!

In August last year, he set a new Spanish record for most consecutive appearances by an outfield player in the 21st century with his 122nd game, before surpassing Bilbao legend Carmelo Cedrun in November with his 133rd game to establish a new club-record.

Even though the Spaniard’s landmark appearance last night ended in a defeat, he showed he ain’t slowing down anytime soon.

What would Barcelona do without Messi?

On the eve of Messi’s 33rd birthday, the fans were hoping for the captain to score, which would’ve also been his landmark 700th goal. And even though that much-vaunted strike never arrived, the Catalan ace once again ran the show.

As we witnessed in the match against Sevilla, he was forced to drop deep and be the playmaker instead. Messi was constantly trying to win the ball back and push his side ahead with forward passes. He also completed 10 dribbles on the night!

To say he was the best player on the pitch for Barcelona would be an understatement. So it was no wonder that the assist for Rakitic’s late winner also came from him – his 250th assist for the club. This begs the question – what would they possibly do without Messi?

He is literally keeping the side alive with amazing all-round displays, but that simply won’t be enough if they were to win the title once again. The Catalans need to step up.

Next. Why Kai Havertz should choose Manchester United. dark

What did you think of the match?