After a convincing win within the first match of the post-Messi period, Barcelona was introduced again right down to earth with a thud in Matchday 2, fortunate to flee with a 1-1 draw from Bilbao in opposition to an Athletic Membership that was the higher crew however unable to capitalize on a mess of probabilities.
This was the marquee matchup of the La Liga weekend slate and Barcelona was by no means going to have a simple time of it. Athletic gave Barca a troublesome time in 4 matches final season, together with the 2 cup finals they cut up. And the house crew performed with no concern: The Athletic gamers have been throughout Barcelona within the first half, forcing a number of turnovers and creating probabilities earlier than tiring late within the second half. Athletic in the end took the lead earlier than a second of magic from Memphis Depay led to an equalizer with quarter-hour remaining.
The sport was revealing as a result of it uncovered a handful of Barcelona gamers and different weak spots that ought to give supervisor Ronald Koeman lots to consider forward of the membership’s subsequent match in opposition to Getafe. And this wasn’t even Athletic Membership’s finest crew:
Griezmann and Braithwaite fail to indicate up
At the least Martin Braithwaite had one probability. His fellow attacker Antoine Griezmann was invisible for the whole match (a lone off-target shot) and by no means a menace, though he labored laborious monitoring again to assist in midfield. Nonetheless, the entrance trio of Braithwaite, Griezmann and Depay not often linked and it was solely a solo run and rip by Depay that acquired Barcelona on the board.
Braithwaite’s unbelievable miss after six minutes might have modified the course of the match. However setting apart that one probability, the attackers left so much to be desired: Exterior of Depay, there weren’t many harmful runs or artistic performs coming from the entrance three. That features teenage debutant Yusuf Demir, who got here on for Braithwaite for the ultimate half-hour.
Their trigger wasn’t helped by a Barcelona midfield that struggled to dictate play, although it appeared higher with Sergi Roberto rather than Pedri, who seems prepared for his compelled two-week trip after a busy summer time.
“We did not play an ideal sport. It price us from the beginning,” Griezmann stated. “They pressured properly. We have been slower than normal — issues to enhance upon and hold working like we’re doing. It is a level. We’ll take it and we’ll deal with Getafe. However we did not have an ideal sport.”
De Jong, Depay step up in an enormous method
Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets are the membership’s veterans, however at their age (34 and 33, respectively) they are not going to have a big affect on matches like they as soon as did. That was left to Depay and Frenkie de Jong on this present day.
De Jong was making performs on each ends. He hit the crossbar within the 74th and made a sensational sliding sort out within the 18th. He had his share of giveaways, however he did not shrink in a troublesome sport and he began the play that led to Barcelona’s objective.
And when Barcelona wanted a participant to provide you with a flash of expertise, Depay got here by together with his first objective for the membership, taking a feed on the left after which inserting the ball within the prime nook. It was a sensational strike. He virtually gained the sport with 4 minutes left on a diagonal shot that completed simply large.
Each of them confirmed that they’ve the character to claim themselves throughout some of the pressure-packed moments within the membership’s current historical past.
What’s Barcelona’s finest again line?
In the long run, it might have labored out for Barcelona that Pique picked up an early hip damage and was compelled to depart the sport, changed by Ronald Araujo after half-hour. Araujo’s youthful athleticism was very mandatory; the Uruguayan saved a objective on an acrobatic clearance and arguably ought to have had Barcelona’s first objective on a bicycle kick. (It was erased for an alleged foul within the attacking build-up.)
The opposite beginning middle again, Eric Garcia, had an equally tough go of it, victimized by Athletic’s middle again on their nook kick header objective. However Garcia additionally performed the match after receiving the information that his grandfather had died. Whether or not or not he was in a state of mind to play the match, the underside line is that he was usually overwhelmed by Athletic’s attackers in one-on-one, open-field performs, together with on his stoppage-time red-card foul. The automated red-card suspension will drive Koeman to experiment extra with the again line subsequent weekend.
The fullbacks — Sergino Dest on the appropriate and Jordi Alba on the left — have been additionally focused by Athletic each time they pushed up the sphere. As normal, Dest was essentially the most enterprising, although he usually indulged a bit a lot with the dribbling strikes. However neither of them made a big contribution to Barcelona’s stunted assault and their crossing was missing — they hit on one in all 10 mixed cross makes an attempt per SofaScore stats.
By the tip of the season, a draw at Athletic Bilbao ought to seem like a powerful consequence (Athletic solely suffered three losses in 19 dwelling matches final season). Not many groups could have what it takes to enter the San Mames and survive the strain that Athletic exerts. However that does not take away from the truth that new-look Barcelona remains to be very a lot a piece in progress two video games into the La Liga season.