Barcelona are firmly in the hunt for the Champions League places, and as they dispatched Athletic Club Bilbao with ease at Camp Nou. Ousmane Dembele went from pantomime villain to home hero as an impressive substitute appearance from him settled the game.
Barcelona started quickly, but couldn’t score early on. Athletic looked up to the task of defending, but they struggled to hold on to the ball. Villalibre didn’t have much support, and couldn’t make it stuck when the ball found him. The waves of Barcelona attacks seemed almost endless as the first half continued, and it felt like it would only be a matter of time before something went the way of the hosts.
It was a set piece that did the trick. A corner from the left found Pique, who rose well to flick the ball towards goal. It cannoned up off the cross bar, and fell to Aubameyang. The former Arsenal captain showed impressive athleticism to react to the dropping ball and fire it into the back of the net.
Barcelona went into the halftime break a goal up, and probably thinking they should have had more. Athletic Club were more assertive in the second half. They were more aggressive with their pressing and they forced a couple of dangerous moments, but in truth they were still always second best.
Nevertheless, Barca’s lead was still slim until Ousmane Dembele came on. Hardly a fan favourite, the forward was whistled on his introduction, and each time he had the ball. It didn’t take him long to change that. Frenkie De Jong’s hooked ball round the corner found him in space, attacking the corner of the box. He stood up his man before driving left and flashing the ball past Unai Simon.
His celebration, with Gavi on the touchline, and half the coaching staff, said a lot. Dembele wasn’t done yet, eight. He produced two glorious assists from the left hand side. First, with his left foot, lifting a ball for De Jong to attack in the air, and then to make it 4-0, he curled the ball with his right for Memphis to guide home from close range.
Different feet, same result, and the quality of his deliveries was too much for the Basque side to deal with. In the end, it’s another league loss at the Camp Nou for Athletic, and it’s another win for a Barcelona side who only seem to go from strength to strength.
Aubameyang (Pique) — 37th min
Dembele (F. De Jong) —73rd min.
L. De Jong (Dembele) — 90th min.
Memphis (Dembele) — 93rd min.
Barca vs. Athletic lineups
TEAM X projected starting lineup (4-3-3): Ter Stegen (GK) — Alves, Araujo, Pique, Dest —Gavi, Busquets, Pedri — Traore, Aubameyang, Torres
TEAM X subs (11): Neto, Braithwaite, Lenglet, Dembele, Mephis, De Jong, Garcia, Puig, Mingueza, Tenas, Gonzalez
TEAM Y projected starting lineup (4-2-2): Simon (GK) — Lekue, Vivian, Alvarez, Balenziaga — Zarraga, Vencedor, Vesga, Serrano — Garcia, Villalibre
TEAM Y subs (12): Berchiche, Muniain, Marcos, Martinez, Garcia, Capa, Williams, Nunez, Sancet, Williams, Agirrezabala, Petxarroman
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