Athletic Bilbao 0-1 Barcelona

 A game from back.

28-August-2016

Luis Enrique showed his full faith in Marc-Andre ter Stegen when he let Bravo leave to Manchester City, and the trust paid off.

The game started as an English game on a Saturday evening, heavy rain and wet pitch. Enrique selected the same starting 11 of game day one, with one change Marc-Andre ter Stegen as goalkeeper. Any game in San Mamés is always a though game for any visiting team. Athletic Bilbao started the game very high on the pitch pressing Marc ter Stegen and Barcelona back four. The first incident was when Umtiti’s back pass to Stegen and Stegen tried to be cleaver which was intercepted by Benat. Benat fired straight into Stegen face. A relief for the German keeper. But apart from this ter Stegen ball distribution was good including long throw and long over head passes. The German complete 82% of passes of total 62 and 14 successful long over head passes. Certainly it was scary to watch him play 1-2-1 passes between Pique, Umtiti, Alba and Roberto with 4- 5 Bilbao players pressing high. But it was sign of a great ball playing Goalkeeper in intense and pressure situation. Which he missed from last 2 years.

First real moment for Barcelona came on 21st minute, when Suarez passed the Bilbao line of defence and a perfect pass to the Arda Turan who was in far left side of the box waiting for a perfect run into the box, and it was Ivan Rakitic who put the ball into net after a little hand signal to Arda asking for the perfect cross. The result, Barcelona one goal up.

The game for Denis Suarez was like watching Iniesta play. He was playing on the same pitch area with the same role, carry the ball from the defence to frontline of Barcelona, which was high up the pitch waiting for counter attack. Denis did well in that role and helping him was Messi. Who was playing deep  – A false 9 role. Another surprise package was S.Roberto, his game was a High-High work rate game with quality and quick dribble and shot passes. Only missing part was quality crosses and sliding tackles. Which was covered by Frenchman Umtiti, His presence and reaction to the game in a tactical way was brilliant. Name it, slide tackles – header – standing tackles and in a Barcelona way, running high with the ball for a surprise attack from backline. He completely covered the space left behind by Jodi Alba and stopped all the crosses from Inaki Williams. Who had an amazing game. His speed, dribbling and direction change was brilliant. Another French Centre-Back who had an class game was Laporte, he man marked Suarez brilliantly and blocked 4 shots from Messi.

Messi, who had an quite game because of his deep line play to support Denis Suarez. But still no one can keep the G.O.A.T quite for a complete 90 minutes. He had his go from free kicks but he missed 3 open and clear chances after crossing Bilbao defence line. The only goal of the game started from Luis Suarez and after that L.Suarez had an miss communication and misfiring game. He missed 2 seater and the understanding level between him and Turan was not like MSN. Turan and Suarez both missed easy tap-ins ignoring the other presence.

Athletic Bilbao lost starting two games of the 2016-17 campaigns and both by 1 goal margin. The game plan for Bilbao was clear and daring only thing they lacked was the clinical finishing in the final 3rd and a moment of concentration break or marking Messi way too much and ignoring other players inside their own box, which lead to the goal. The plan from Mr.Ernesto Valverde was master class. High Pressing – Flexible Formation Shifting – Pitch Area Man Marking {rather than player man marking}. The formation shifting from high pressing 4-2-4 to own half defence 4-5-1 was fluid and that’s why Denis Suarez and later the debutant Andre Gomes struggled to pass two defence lines. The pitch area man-marking was best played by Laporte.

Barcelona played a counter attacking game with defence and mid line supporting each other and attack Luis Suarez staying high on the pitch. The rain made it more difficult for Barcelona player with many slipping in between the game. Messi was the link between Mid and Attack, his vision and range of passes was linking mid and attack. Player like  Andrés Iniesta was missed, who can just run pass 10-12 yard passing 2-4 opposition players and supply the ball to Messi/Suarez. But its just the beginning and Denis Suarez showed that he is a promising prospect.

Long way to go for the this season campaign and few more player yet to join the team. It’s a promising start for FC Barcelona and with the transfer rumour of Paco Alcácer joining FC Barcelona, the team will get better with good depth and quality players. Next match will be away from home against newly promoted side Deportivo Alaves. The game will be of physical test due to a small ground and hard pitch.

2 Comments

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