By 90Min
September 29, 2018

Barcelona's challenging period shows no sign of coming to an end as the reigning La Liga champions were held 1-1 by a determined Athletic Bilbao side.

Barcelona began incredibly, with both Philippe Coutinho and Luis Suarez coming close to opening the scoring. However, Athletic showed they were not prepared to roll over for Barcelona and, after some impressive saves from 21-year-old Unai Simon, actually took the lead when Oscar de Marcos converted a beautiful cross from Yuri to give Athletic the lead at half time.

David Ramos/GettyImages

Lionel Messi, who began the match on the bench, was introduced shortly after the break in an attempt to salvage a result. 

After several failed attempts, the ever-brilliant Messi carved out his side's late equaliser for Munir. 

Here's our breakdown of this one:


BARCELONA


Key Talking Point


After dropping points in their last two games, Ernesto Valverde opted to rest a handful of Barcelona's key players. Sergio Busquets - who signed a new contract in the week - dropped to the bench, and he was controversially joined by Lionel Messi. Both players eventually joined the match, but only once Athletic had taken the lead.

David Ramos/GettyImages

Unsurprisingly, Messi looked very dangerous following his introduction. He created several good chances for himself, hitting the post and sending a shot narrowly wide, before finally creating his side's equaliser. Had Messi started the match, he may well have been able to guide his side to victory.

Valverde took a risk with his team selection, and it certainly did not pay off. It is too soon to speak of a crisis in Barcelona, but something is clearly wrong.


Player Ratings


Starting XI: ter Stegen (6); Semedo (7), Pique (6), Lenglet (6), Alba (6); Roberto (6), Rakitic (7), Vidal (8); Dembele (6), Coutinho (8), Suarez (7).

Substitutes: Busquets (6), Messi (8), Munir (7).


STAR MAN - Arturo Vidal

It was a thoroughly impressive performance from Vidal, who showcased a different side to his game during the match. Known for his dominant physicality and stamina, the Chilean looked incredibly at home in the heart of Barcelona's midfield.

Soccrates Images/GettyImages

He looked to be a truly creative force for his side, with countless quick and dangerous passes. He could have earned an assist in the first half with a phenomenal cutting pass to Suarez, and proved that he is comfortable playing a more technical style of play.

He was withdrawn after 53 minutes and looked visibly devastated at the decision, and rightly so. He was enjoying a phenomenal performance, and fans were quick to praise Vidal on Twitter.

WORST PLAYER - Ousmane Dembele


Coutinho, Suarez and Messi all looked impressive, which amplified Ousmane Dembele's struggles. The Frenchman looked dangerous at times, but was clearly the weakest of Barcelona's attacking players. He struggled to make a consistent impact, and needs to step up in future.


ATHLETIC BILBAO


Key Talking Point 

For a side who pride themselves on the development of their young players, they will have been ecstatic to see seven academy graduates take to the field during the match. One of these graduates was 21-year-old goalkeeper Unai Simon, who was simply an unknown youngster towards the end of last season.

Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/GettyImages

Before Kepa's big-money move to Chelsea, Simon was arguably the fourth-choice goalkeeper at the club. Alex Remiro's contract standoff with the club gave Simon the chance to impress, and he has yet to disappoint. Simon made several crucial saves, justifying why he has received so much praise this season.


They may well have a new superstar between the sticks this season.


Player Ratings


Starting XI: Simon (8); de Marcos (9), Yeray (6), Inigo Martinez (5), Balenziaga (6); D.Garcia (7), Benat (6); Susaeta (7), R.Garcia (7), Yuri (7); Williams (6).

Substitutes: Nolaskoain (7), San Jose (6), Aduriz (6).


STAR MAN - Oscar de Marcos

David Ramos/GettyImages

The right back put in a complete performance against Barcelona. He was alert defensively, and was always happy to press high up the pitch and try and force a mistake from Barcelona's defenders. It was his deep running which created the goal for Athletic, as he was the furthest man forward to capitalise on Susaeta's cross.

He was regularly the man to deny Barcelona's attack, putting in some phenomenal last-ditch challenges to try protect his side's clean sheet. Even if he was ultimately unable to prevent Barcelona from scoring, it was a fantastic performance from the Spaniard.

WORST PLAYER - Iñaki Williams


For large parts of this match, Athletic were forced to defend, leaving Williams alone in attack. He had two good chances in the first half and should have converted at least one of them, and also failed to make the most of another good chance late in the second half. Labelling him as the worst player is harsh, but it was certainly a tough performance for Williams.


Looking Ahead

Barcelona will face a challenging trip to London to face Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League, before returning to La Liga action against Valencia.

Whilst this was an impressive draw for Athletic, they will be desperate to start turning the draws into victories, starting with a clash with Real Sociedad next weekend.

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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)