Round two of La Liga sees Barcelona earn a tough three points with a one to nil victory away at the new San Mamés. The low scoring affair was cagey and tense throughout with an early header from Ivan Rakitić deciding the affair.
Marc-André ter Stegen – 7.5
The new Barça number one completed the most passes for a keeper in league since the stat began being kept in 2005. A bad clearance in the 11th minute almost cost the team a goal, but Marc made a nice stop with his face to keep the score level. Athletic Club keep pressure on the back four throughout the match but ter Stegen was always available as an outlet. Distribution was great and he kept a clean sheet; a good start for his La Liga campaign.
Jordi Alba – 6.5
Jordi used his incredible pace throughout the match to complete numerous overlapping runs. On the defensive side most of Bilbao’s attacks came on his side and at times he had trouble dealing with Iñaki Williams. There were no glaring mistakes from Alba and he made a great tackle in 80th, but it’s obvious he would rather be playing up the pitch more as a winger.
Samuel Umtiti – 6
Seems to be making a habit of receiving handball yellows. Distribution from him was nice and tidy and Barça fans should be excited at the prospect of him making more barnstorming runs into the attacking half of the field. Beaten for strength on a few occasions, he had to be withdrawn in the 71st for fear of picking up another yellow. Hard to fault such a young player too much for playing his first big away match for the club.
Gerard Piqué – 8
So strong in the air. Failure on defensive set pieces are a thing of the past with him in the lineup. He may not be one of the best big men in the air, but he is the best passing center back in the game. His distribution was key to relieve pressure and build attacking movements for the team. Never looked under pressure and gave nothing to Aritz Aduriz to feed on, not even scraps.
Sergi Roberto – 8
Barcelona fans are witnessing the birth of one of the best young full backs in the game. He owned the right side of the pitch throughout the match. Overlapping runs, crosses, defensive tracking back, interplay with Messi, whatever you ask of him he comes through and in spades.
Denis Suárez – 7
Nice and tidy on the ball and in possession. Never looked to make the killer pass but never made the wrong one either. The future looks bright for young midfielder. Composure was the name of the game for him.
Sergio Busquets – 6
Doesn’t look to be the same player that we all know and love from seasons past. Hopefully for him and us he just needs to get back into rhythm and shape. It is so strange to see him misplace a pass or lose possession. He is the anchor of the team and it’s worrying because not only is there no player on the team who can replace him but in the world as well.
Ivan Rakitić – 8.5
Player of the match for Barcelona. His beautiful header in the 22nd was the only goal of the match. Gets a lot of hate for what he isn’t on the pitch but not enough love for what he is. His passing game was magical throughout and the 2nd half saw him drop into a deeper defensive position to cover for Messi drifting inside. Always what the team needs when they need it.
Arda Turan – 7.5
Looks to be a different player for Barcelona when he plays on the wing. Great cross to Rakitić for the goal and had great game position wise. Strong passing game rounded out a very good performance for the Turk. Strong start to the season has fans wondering if Neymar’s position is so secure.
Luis Suárez – 7
The best number nine in the game shows up for Barcelona even when not on the score sheet. His pass to Arda led to the goal for Rakitić and his hold up play was fantastic throughout the match. Although he should have scored on more than one occasion especially after a fine ball from Messi at the end of the match. Another Pichichi looks to be in his future.
Lionel Messi – 7
Not a match for the great one that will go down in history or be remembered for the ages. He dictated play with a wide range of passes but couldn’t find an assist or get on the score sheet. Arda and Suárez should have put the match away with sublimes balls from the Argentine. Often had to drop deep to receive the ball, midfielder Messi is here.
Javier Mascherano – 6
Came on for Umtiti and saw out the game and pressure from Athletic. Was calm and composed on the ball and made no mistakes save for one foul that led to a dangerous free kick. It’s good to see that his injury was not too serious.
André Gomes – 5
Still trying to adapt to FC Barcelona and their style of play. He was mostly invisible after coming on. He is still one for the future and may be a possible backup for Sergio.
Rafinha – 5.5
Gave the ball away a few times but hustled to cover the left side of the pitch. Not his finest game in a Barça shirt but won’t be his last either. It is still to be seen where his best position on the pitch for the club will be.
To sum it all up, a determined performance in poor conditions at a tough away ground. Roberto, Turan, Piqué and especially Rakitić the standout performers. Who were your favorites?