Barcelona is solidly in contention for a place in the Champions League, after they easily despatched Athletic Club Bilbao at Camp Nou. Following an outstanding replacement performance, Ousmane Dembele moved from comic villain to home hero.

Barcelona got off to a fast start, but they were unable to score right away. Athletic appeared capable of defending, but they battled to keep possession of the ball. Villalibre didn’t get much help, and when the ball came to him, he couldn’t get it to stick. As the first half progressed, the waves of Barcelona attacks appeared nearly interminable, and it seemed like it would only be a matter of time before something went the hosts’ way.

It was a well-executed set piece that got the job done. Pique rose brilliantly to flick the ball towards goal from a left-wing corner. It ricocheted off the crossbar and landed on Aubameyang. The former Arsenal captain displayed amazing athleticism by reacting quickly to a dropped ball and firing it into the net.

Barcelona went into halftime with a one-goal lead and the feeling that they should have had more. In the second half, Athletic Club were more assertive. They were more aggressive in their pushing and forced a couple of difficult situations, but they were still second best.

Despite this, Barcelona’s lead remained small until Ousmane Dembele entered the game. The forward, who was not a fan favourite, was whistled on his introduction and every time he got the ball. It didn’t take him long to rectify the situation. Frenkie De Jong’s hooked ball from the corner of the box found him in space, attacking the box’s corner. Before driving left and flashing the ball beyond Unai Simon, he stood up his man.

His celebration, which included Gavi and half of the coaching staff on the sidelines, spoke a lot. Dembele wasn’t finished yet, number eight. From the left side, he provided two magnificent assists. With his left foot, he lifted a pass for De Jong to attack in the air, and then with his right, he curled the ball for Memphis to guide home from close range to make it 4-0.

Same result with different foot, and the quality of his deliveries was too much for the Basque defence to handle. In the end, it’s another league loss for Athletic at the Camp Nou, and another win for a Barcelona side that just keeps getting better.

Final score of Barca vs. Athletic: 1H 2H Final Barca 1 4 4 Athletic 0 0
Goals:

Pique (Aubameyang) — 37th minute

73rd minute: Dembele (F. De Jong)

90th minute — L. De Jong (Dembele)

93rd minute — Memphis (Dembele).

FULLTIME: Barcelona 4, Athletic Bilbao 1

In the end, 4-0 is maybe a touch harsh on Athletic Club, but Barcelona, and particularly Ousmane Dembele, stole the game away from their opponents with three outstanding moments.

GOAL in the 93rd minute!

As his squad passes the ball around for fun, Xavi applauds from his technical area. They make the decision to do something about it and work it out. It’s Dembele this time, and he pulls the same stunt. He flicks the ball to just inside the six-yard box on his right this time, and Memphis is left with a simple finish.

GOAL in the 90th minute!

Barca’s third goal is scored by Luuk De Jogn. It begins with Pedri’s excellent evasion of pressure in his own half, before the ball is sprayed wide to Dembele. He carries the ball inside on his right before lofting it to the boundary of the six yard area on his left. De Jong rises unnoticed and flicks the ball into the net for a simple finish.

Pique is a lucky boy in the 88th minute. Pique, who has already been booked, spins him and pulls back on the attacker’s shirt. Araujo, who has been vigilant to danger throughout the game, is fast across the field to cover.

After Athletic force a mistake high up the pitch, Ter Stegen is forced into a save by an Inaki Williams shot. It’s their finest chance in a long time. Busquets is replaced by Nico, while Aubameyang is replaced by Luuk de Jong, as Barca make two more changes.

Memphis came in in the 82nd minute for Adama, who is leading the pitch on the far side. Athletic tries to move the ball forward, but they can’t seem to keep it.

Pedri’s name is sung across the stadium in the 81st minute, as every every touch appears to be a work of beauty. Athletic have slowed down a bit in this game, and they’ll need to rally soon if they want to win. Memphis appears to be on his way on as De Jong fails to connect with an Adama Traore cross with a feeble header.

76th minute: Great play from Pedri and Dani Alves in the right back area, with a little support from Araujo, to play out while under pressure. Dembele has resurfaced on the left, indicating that the Camp Noi is currently in party mode. His body opens up, but he leans back too far, and his shot misses. Inaki Williams replaces Villalibre for Athletic.

GOAL in the 73rd minute!

Dembele has a scorcher on his hands. De Jong is on the left side of the field after his ball goes around the corner. He enters the box and raises his opponent, feinting to his right before driving to his left. He shoots the ball past Unai Simon from a tight angle.

70th minute: Barcelona makes a swift burst, with Ousmane Dembele finding De Jong overlapping him on his left. Aubameyang receives the Dutchman’s cross, but he is too far out to really challenge the keeper.

Xavi makes two substitutions in the 67th minute. Ferran Torres and Gavi are replaced by Ousmane Dembele and Frenkie de Jong, who do not receive a warm response from the home crowd. For Vesga and Zarraga, Athletic bring on Nico Williams and Dani Garcia.

Villalibre gets a yard on Pique and gets his head on a cross from the left in the 66th minute. He can only direct it at the defender, but it serves as a message to Barcelona that they cannot afford to be complacent.

Big save in the 64th minute! Ferran takes advantage of a defensive mix-up to carry the ball through on goal. He drives into the area and puts his foot through the ball with only Simon to beat.

However, he lacks the positioning, and Unai Simon is a match for him. A huge opportunity is squandered.

After a brief run up, Ferran Torres strikes the dead ball, but it just hits the ball.

Pedri’s exquisite diagonal finds Adama Traore in space in the 61st minute. He knocks the ball down and carries it into the area before bobbling a cross near the edge of the six-yard box, but Aubameyang is denied the opportunity. Barca counter-attacks, Aubameyang flicks the ball back to Gavi, who is pulled down just inside the D. It’s a free kick for Barcelona, and Araujo is standing over it. a.

57th minute: Athletic have looked far more at ease in the second half. They advance the ball up the field to Villalibre, who holds it and prepares to pass it to Sancet. He misses the throw, but it’s a good idea.

Serginho Dest must be vigilant on the cover in the 53rd minute, not for the first time. Athletic has a throw in on the right side of the field. The ritual appears to be coming to an end, but Zarraga’s cut back fails to find anyone.

51st minute: The visitors needed to do something different after the first half. They’re defending higher up the field, making it more difficult for Barca to get into their half. They are, though, creating more space for Barcelona’s quick attackers.

Busquets is booked in the 49th minute for a needless late tackle on Vencedor. Athletic Club were able to bring the ball forward, but their cross was unsuccessful.

Athletic makes two substitutions in the 46th minute to begin the second half. Yeray Alvarez and Raul Garcia will be replaced by Inigo Martinez and Oihan Sancet. It’ll be business as usual for Barca, who will seek for more of the same.

HALFTIME

Barca has taken a merited one-goal lead. After they got the lead, the game slowed down, and Athletic will be relieved to just be down one goal.

44th minute: Yeray is still in the hospital, and Marcelino isn’t happy with the elbow he got. The defender is let back onto the field and intercepts a ball that would have nearly soon found Adama Traore in space.

42nd minute: Yeray gets knocked out for a brief period after being elbowed by Adama Traore. It doesn’t appear to be serious. The defender has performed admirably in the first half, but his team is down to eleven players as he is assessed on the bench.

39th minute: Pedri, who has been a key player all half, cuts through the Athletic Club defence to find a guy in space, but his cross is cut out.

GOAL in the 37th minute!

Pique’s header from a left-sided corner explodes off the crossbar and lands on the brink of the six-yard box for Aubameyang. As he falls backwards, the forward performs an acrobatic finish, rifleing the ball into the back of the net.

35th minute: Villalibre is found in the box by an Athletic counter attack that looks promising. He tries to lift Araujo before passing the ball to him, but the defender is too powerful for him, and the opportunity is lost.

31st minute: From the right side, Adama sneaks a cross into the area. Aubameyang attacks it near the penalty spot but is unable to make contact.

Villalibre sneaks by Barcelona’s defence with a headed 1-2 in the 28th minute. He rushes along the left channel and shoots from a wide angle. Ter Stegen owns it.

26th minute: Barca make a fast move to locate Adama on the right flank. He drives ahead with the ball and unleashes a cross into the box. Optimistically, the home crowd requests a handball. It was snatched from the defender’s sleeve.

It’s an Athletic Club counter in the 24th minute. Pique clears a cross to the left, which lands outside the area to Vesga. His shot misses the mark.

22nd minute: Aubameyang moves to the left, while Ferran moves inside. As Aubameyang crosses for his teammate, the two combine, but Ferran’s effort is less than convincing. After Barca works it down the left again, Ferran gets another shot from beyond the area, but it’s a speculative effort that doesn’t threaten the target.

20th minute: Barca has a good run along the left flank. Ferran finishes on the byline, cutting back to his right and rolling it back into the area. Gavi sprints onto the ball with the entire goal in front of him and scores. Athletic manage a potentially dangerous attack on the opposite end, but Dest is on there to ensure it ends with a tame shot from outside the area.

18th minute: It’s all scruffy from Athletic as Ferran and Pique combine to get on the end of a Dani Alves corner. The game does not result in a goal, but the visiting defence appeared uneasy. Athletic have the ball for a short time, but it has already returned to the home side.

14th minute: The keeper catches Pedri’s lofted ball into the area. Barca is still getting the majority of the ball. While Athletic is coping for the time being, Barcelona continues to strike.

12th minute: Barca has attempted a couple of diagonal passes in an attempt to locate Adama and Ferran Torres in space. They haven’t released anything yet, but expect it to be a recurring theme. Villalibre and Raul Garcia will have to improve their ball-holding skills if Athletic is to keep the ball.

9th minute: Adama Traore finds a yard of space on the byline and sends the ball across goal. Yeray is blocking it, and Barca has a corner. Athletic appear to be unconcerned for the time being, but they will require an outlet. There’s a snafu at the back, but Dest’s tempo suffocates Villalibre.

6th minute: The hosts are off to a good start, but Unai Simon hasn’t seen much action yet. Play is stopped for offside when Ferran Torres heads a cross back over the boundary of the six yard area, but it is over Aubameyang.

Lineups for Barcelona vs. Athletic
TEAM X’s predicted starting lineup (4-3-3) is as follows: Ter Stegen (GK) — Alves, Araujo, Pique, Dest — Gavi, Busquets, Pedri — Traore, Aubameyang, Torres — Traore, Aubameyang, Torres — Traore, Aubameyang, Torres — Traore, Aubameyang, Torres — Traore, Aubameyang,

TEAM X subs (11): Neto, Braithwaite, Lenglet, Dembele, Mephis, De Jong, Garcia, Puig, Mingueza, Tenas, Gonzalez, Neto, Braithwaite, Lenglet, Dembele, Mephis, De Jong, Garcia, Puig, Mingueza, Tenas, Gonzalez

Simon (GK) — Lekue, Vivian, Alvarez, Balenziaga — Zarraga, Vencedor, Vesga, Serrano — Garcia, Villalibre

Berchiche, Muniain, Marcos, Martinez, Garcia, Capa, Williams, Nunez, Sancet, Williams, Agirrezabala, Petxarroman, TEAM Y subs (12): Berchiche, Muniain, Marcos, Martinez, Garcia, Capa, Williams, Nunez, Sancet, Williams, Agirrezabala, Petxarroman

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