Athletic Club was ravenous in the first half and thrashed an uninspired FC Barcelona two to one in the first leg of their round of 16 Copa Del Rey matchup. Barcelona will cry foul after the match which saw more than one unique decision from referee Fernandez Borbalan. Lionel Messi netted a valuable away free kick goal but was mostly ineffective in a match which Neymar was the sole bright spot.
Marc-André ter Stegen – 6.0
He should have done better on the Inaki Williams goal. The German’s distribution was on par but all night the shot stopper seemed a step slow. His cautious approach was an anticatalyst and led to slow build ups from the back which were undone again and again by unrelenting Athletic pressure.
Jordi Alba – 4.5
The usually rock steady Spaniard should have marked Aritz Aduriz on the back post on Athletics first goal, and his wayward pass led to their second. Jordi was also caught off side far too often, bad calls or not. To be fair he was a positive presence in the final third and the main target of Messi’s through balls on the left side.
Samuel Umtiti – 6.0
He was targeted as the weak spot in the Barcelona defense by Williams and Aduriz. For the most part the young French star stood his ground except when taking a vindictive punch to the throat by the aforementioned Aduriz. The two men received yellows after Umtiti received treatment and began to argue with the Basque man. Athletic Club were lucky to escape the play with 11 men. Would Javier Mascherano have made a difference in this match?
Gerard Piqué – 6.0
Lackadaisical is the word for the day. He played his part but was not the dominating force that can make an argument for best defender in the world. No where to be found were his usual last ditch sliding tackles, towering headers, or barnstorming runs into the box.
Sergi Roberto – 6.0
He made a few nice crosses but one began to wonder if his best place is not in the midfield? Central midfielder in a 3-4-3, backup for Sergio Busquets? Something isn’t clicking right for the club on the right side.
Andrés Iniesta – 5.0
The magician had a rare off night. He gave away the ball for the first goal amongst a few other misplaced passes. When the world cup winner isn’t up to his usual high standards the club suffers.
Sergio Busquets – 5.5
He always struggles playing up against two pressing forwards. Teams know if they take away the pass to Sergio they will most likely be able to win aerial duels down field. The great pivot man is officially having a poor season. He is giving away too many balls, losing too much possession and not able to deliver pinpoint passes.
Ivan Rakitić – 5.5
Anonymous is much too strong of a word for the player on the night. With Sergi taking up a more defensive position Ivan’s movement has become redundant. He is unable to deliver the final pass into the final third, his runs into the box aren’t being found, and his defensive prowess and work rate is less needed.
Neymar – 7.5
They say he has been in a goal scoring drought, and they are right but he brings so much more to the table. His adventurous dribbles into the box were the main source of offensive for the club in the first half. One ended in uncalled obvious penalty right before the end of the half. He won the foul that led to Messi’s goal in the 2nd half and had a few decent attempts on target himself. He also won both second yellows that led to two reds.
Luis Suárez – 5.5
It may be time to drop the Uruguayan for a match or two. His work rate is undeniable but his first touch is time and time again leaving something to be desired. Messi wants to play centrally and Arda Turan needs to be on the pitch. Turan should play on the right and Messi in the center to change things up.
Lionel Messi – 7.0
For any other player his performance would be one to celebrate but for Messi it was an off color display. He scored a free kick goal in the 52nd minute with a wee bit of luck. Messi also found teammates with through balls and cross switched passes across the field but his dribbles led to little.
André Gomes – 6.0
He made a few nice passes and generally moved the ball along well.
Paco Alcácer – 5.5
He was brought on the pitch to score a goal and missed a glorious chance to be a hero. If it wasn’t for bad luck, he would have none.
Things need to change if the team wants to progress in this competition or any other. Either the team will miraculously start playing better or changes need to be made. Arda needs playing time as well as Denis Suárez does. Javier’s steel needs to be in the side may it be in defense or to give Sergio a rest. Is it time to play a 3-4-3? What did you think?