While Sunday’s game against Athletic Club was certainly enjoyable, tomorrow’s visit to the San Mamés promises to be an entirely different matchup. Barcelona brutally punished Ernesto Valverde’s men after they went a man down very early in the game, and it almost looked like the blaugrana were trying to extract revenge after they were denied a second historic sextuple by Athletic. Barcelona won the two Liga fixtures between the two clubs and Athletic walked away with the Spanish Super Cup, but who gets to stay in the race for the Copa del Rey? That question will be partly answered on Wednesday!
Lucho wary of Athletic Club threat
Barça travel to Bilbao on Wednesday for the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarter finals and Luis Enrique concedes life has been difficult for him at the San Mamés. “They will try and make home advantage count, but we will go out to win the game, without thinking about the second leg,” he said before adding, “I never had an easy game at San Mamés and if they made things hard for us tonight with 10 men, imagine what it’ll be like with 11.”
Lucho confessed that even with 10 men the Basque club was dangerous and the team had to give it their best to win the game. He said, “The incidents changed the game completely and the tactical plans we had went out the window. It was a comfortable game for us but we still needed to work hard and stay in our positions. It was much easier for us obviously but we still had to do our job, we were only 2-0 up at half-time. We had to finish them off after the break and we did that.”
STOP TO MESSI
He does not have a muscular injury, but will not play against Bilbao tomorrow as a precaution
Luis Enrique will have to improvise a trident for the Copa, given that Neymar is the only available crack
Busquets: “Atleti is a bigger rival than Madrid.”
James is a problem for Zidane
NEYMAR THE LION
The Brazilian seems to be the only member of the trident available at the San Mames
He is Athletic’s nightmare, having scored five times against them in five games
Messi suffers an elongation and will be a doubt till the last moment
The club will appeal Luis’ suspension, and he will not play if the appeal fails
CR7: “If I really gave it to him, he would not be able to get up.”
This is an instinctive lashing out which does not deserve punishment
On the other hand, this would be a piece of aggression which deserves perpetual coverage and condemnation
A fair analysis from the boss
Luis Enrique freely admitted the red card “changed the game completely” and made it “more comfortable for us“. As stated in the match review, Lucho also agrees that while the controversial triple-punishment is “excessive” these are the rules. The Barça boss however warned that the game will not be the same Wednesday night in Bilbao. “This game will be useless as far as analysing it to teach the players what we can do to hurt Athletic in the Copa del Rey game because having an extra man is a huge advantage. You could see their intensity on the first chance they had. There are no easy games against Valverde because of the way they play. That’s what we’ll see at San Mamés. ” Not only will they have 11 men, Aritz Aduriz will be available.
Otherwise Luis Enrique confirmed that Lionel Messi was removed at the half to be cautious around some discomfort he had in his right leg. “It looks to be nothing serious but I preferred not to risk it“.
Andoni Zubizarreta was never a man of many words. The Basque-born former club goalkeeper may have spent the best years of his career playing for Barcelona’s Dream Team, lining up amongst superstars and playing for legendary coach Johan Cruyff, but it has never been easy to get him to talk at length about things. Even when he was sacked by Barcelona in January 2015 in a not-so-nice way, Zubi didn’t speak a word. That’s why his most recent interview to Madrid-based sports daily Marca is a very interesting piece, and one we deemed worthy of translating.
Don’t hate the playa, hate the game. There’s nothing Mateu Lahoz could have done but have sent Athletic’s Gorka Iraizoz off for an obvious foul in the area that prohibited a goal scoring opportunity. Such is the letter of the law and such was the end of this match as a contest. Lionel Messi stepped up to put in the penalty and over the next 90 minutes Barça rampaged Athletic despite not shifting out of second or third gear. Neymar was again exquisite and Luis Súarez notched his third hat-trick for the club which took his season’s stats to 29 goals and 11 assists in 29 games. Yes, those figures are correct. Athletic Club have now visited Camp Nou 12 times consecutively without a result.
Luis Suárez recital
Barcelona started the Bilbao trilogy with a goal-fest: hat-trick from Luis Suárez, the “Pichichi” with 18 goals, Messi from the penalty spot, Neymar and Rakitic
The quick expulsion of the goalkeeper, Iraizoz paved the way for the team who lost Alba to injury
Leo shows off his fifth Balon D’or, but is substituted at half-time
SPECTACLE AND HAT-TRICK (6-0)
Recital from Luis, and Neymar in stellar form
Messi exhibited his Balon D’or and left with a knock