Barcelona waste golden opportunity in draw against Athletic Bilbao

Barcelona failed to take advantage of both Real Madrid and Girona dropping points and lost two midfielders in the process.
Athletic de Bilbao v FC Barcelona - LaLiga EA Sports
Athletic de Bilbao v FC Barcelona - LaLiga EA Sports / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

Barcelona were presented with a golden opportunity to get back into the hunt for the league title. Real Madrid dropped points against Valencia and Girona lost against Mallorca. This meant that a win not only pushed Barcelona within six points of Real Madrid, but they could have overtaken Girona for second place.

With so much on the line, Barcelona put in an abysmal performance and were held to a disappointing scoreless draw against Athletic Bilbao.

Despite Athletic Bilbao playing midweek in the Copa del Rey, Ernesto Valverde's side showed more determination and intensity, even without Nico Williams who was serving a suspension.

To make matters worse, Barcelona lost both Frenkie de Jong and Pedri who were forced off with injuries. De Jong rolled his ankle after he landed awkwardly vying for a ball in the air. Pedri's injury was a non-contact injury as he simply went to ground near the end of the first half.

Pedro Gonzalez 'Pedri'
Athletic Club v FC Barcelona - LaLiga EA Sports / Alex Caparros/GettyImages

"The two injuries in the first half certainly affected us. We are so unlucky," Xavi Hernandez said after the game. "Those are two very important players for our game plan. I imagine we're going to miss them for several games. The team was trying but we generated very litt. We didn't quite have out claws out and never really went for the game."

Fermin Lopez and Lamine Yamal replaced Frenkie de Jong and Pedri, respectively. It was a difficult game for the latter who never really was able to find his footing. Yamal, on the other hand, was arguably the best player on the pitch. Though that is also an indictment on how the rest of the team performed.

Barcelona managed only eight shots, two on target, and none in the second half. Xavi wasn't wrong when he said they generated very little but he shares some blame in that department.

Given he had already made two substitutes in the first half, Xavi only had one window remaining. Needing a goal and knowing how important a victory could be, he opted to bring on Oriol Romeu and Iñigo Martínez instead of either Vitor Roque or Marc Guiu.

Roque or Guiu could have been a good substitute for Robert Lewandowski who was isolated up front. They could also proved more effective than Joao Felix who had another lackluster performance. When Xavi said they needed to believe in what they are doing, perhaps he needs to do the same.

"This was a wasted opportunity and I feel disappointed," Xavi said. "But there are always going to be games like these, games that are just ugly. The only positive thing is how good we were in defense."


It's a quick turnaround for Barcelona as they host Mallorca on Friday before the all-important round of 16 Champions League match against Napoli.